In a significant stride towards bolstering Africa's capacity for disease diagnosis and response, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has officially inaugurated a cutting-edge biosafety laboratory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This state-of-the-art facility, generously funded by China, was unveiled during the visit of Shen Hongbing, Director General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Hu Changchun, Head of the China Mission to the African Union on November 10th.
Named after the renowned Chinese scientist Dr. Wu Lien-teh, a pioneer of modern medicine in China, the laboratory is poised to function as a crucial training and quality assurance centre. It will play a pivotal role in the evaluation and validation of diagnostic technologies and tools, contribute to research and development, and confirm outbreaks in a timely manner.
The current landscape reveals that less than 5% of African laboratories possess fully developed and sustainable capacities for diagnosing priority diseases, transporting specimens, and adhering to international standards. Recognizing this gap, the collaboration between Africa CDC and China CDC seeks to enhance disease diagnosis, infectious disease response, workforce development, and early warning systems in Africa.
The facility, boasting two biosafety levels (BSL)-I, four BSL-II, two specialised BSL-II (BSL-II plus), and two high containment laboratories (BSL-III), aligns with Africa CDC's strategic priorities for 2023-2027. This strategy focuses on expanding clinical and public health laboratory systems and networks across the continent.
H.E Dr. Jean Kaseya, the Director General of Africa CDC, expressed gratitude for China's generous support in advancing public health in Africa, highlighting the laboratory's significance in transforming Africa CDC into a world-class, agile, and self-sustaining organization.
Beyond its role as a training and quality assurance centre, the laboratory will collaborate closely with National Public Health Institutes and National Reference Laboratories of Member States, contributing to the continent-wide laboratory network. The inauguration ceremony marks a new chapter in Africa's public health landscape, injecting fresh momentum into China-Africa health cooperation.
Equipped to conduct advanced pathogen genomic sequencing, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, and biochemical analysis, the laboratory is poised to significantly contribute to clinical care, surveillance, outbreak response, and technology transfer across the African continent.
Article by Nyokabi Wanjiku