2024 WANETAM Annual Retreat: conversations to steer the network towards a sustainable future

On 26th January 2024, WANETAM concluded its second annual retreat under its third funding cycle. Jointly organised with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), the retreat brought together representatives of network member institutions, work package leads and deputies, members of the Management Group, members of the Steering Committee and members of the network’s advisory board in Lagos, Nigeria.

After 14 years of operation, and reaching significant milestones, this year’s retreat was an opportunity to assess the network’s achievements, highlight challenges and reflect on strategies to shape the network’s future.

At the opening ceremony chaired by Professor Richard A. Adegbola, an incredible voice for Science in West Africa and a pillar of support for WANETAM, Professor Souleyane Mboup, the network’s Coordinator, highlighted that since its inception, WANETAM has grown to a membership of 25 institutions from 12 West African countries and 5 institutions from 4 European countries. This he said, is a manifestation of the strong interest in advancing clinical research in endemic and emerging infections across West Africa. He congratulated members of the network for the significant achievements registered over the years and applauded the network’s continued efforts to sustain its investments by developing, inspiring and mentoring young and early-career researchers within the sub-region.

Professor P.O. Akinwale speaking on behalf of Professor Babatunde Lawal Salako, Director of NIMR, expressed delight in hosting this year’s retreat. “We are pleased to host this year’s WANETAM 3 Annual Retreat in Nigeria. We would like to recognise the network’s strides to combat poverty-related diseases in West Africa” she highlighted.

She noted that NIMR was part of the pioneer institutions that founded WANETAM in 2009 and significantly benefited from the network through capacity development, technical assistance and knowledge exchange. “Many members of our staff have benefited from laboratory-based trainings, post-doctoral fellowships, and grant writing capacity development from the network” she added.

Other distinguished speakers at the opening ceremony include the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi. He used the occasion to call for continued efforts and investments towards curbing tuberculosis, HIV and malaria in the sub-region, citing that a lot remains undone in the battles against these and other poverty-related diseases. “These diseases continue to affect and afflict millions of persons around the globe, posing significant threats to individuals, communities, and entire nations” he added.

As part of the retreat, the network’s work package leads shared activity updates from their various groups, highlighting achievements registered, milestones reached, and challenges faced during implementation. The network’s post-doctoral fellows as well as TALENT PhD fellows also had an opportunity to share their work, research progress, recent publications and career opportunities they secured through the network.

The 2024 retreat paved the way for conversations on the network’s strategic direction and highlighted the need for a collaborative approach in enhancing clinical research and addressing poverty-related diseases in West Africa.