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Prof. Monekosso Sets Africa On Journey To Self-Reliance 

Prof. Gottlieb Lobe Monekosso

Prof. Gottlieb Lobe Monekosso

Africa has lived spasmodically for the past half a century. The continent has suffered and continues to suffer from one harsh situation to another.

The continent trails behind due to some external forces riding on internal weaknesses.

There is no shortage of reports on the economic and social pathologies of Africa but a shortage of strategies to solve the continent’s problems.

According to Prof. Gottlieb Lobe Monekosso; former Director of the Africa Region of the World Health Organisation, WHO and former Health Minister of Cameroon, the post-independence period of the 1960’s was an era of happiness for Africans and they forgot to work hard to sustain their achievements.

During the colonial period, Africans were not allowed to take initiatives.Today, this attitude persists. Administrators have been accused of not doing something unless a foreigner brings in an idea and money.

Africans and her friends would like to dissolve all of the challenges mentioned above; the bonds of ignorance, disease and poverty, which have bound Africa to the vicious circle of backwardness.

They wish to replace these vicious circles with virtuous ones so that Africa may assume, among the riches and comforts of the world, that which it is entitled.

Faced by these diagnoses, Prof. Monekosso has designed strategies embodied in the Africa Communities Initiative (ACI); to adopt objectives and tactics for health and development for all and by all communities, with a view to self-reliance.

The ACI aims to establish a global network of promoters, investors, providers, clients that would ensure sustainable resources for local communities and promote emulation and competition between them.

In a nutshell, Monekosso envisions the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs by involving all hierarchical levels in multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral community-based interventions targeting health and development.

In the professor’s thinking, health and development in Africa have been treated separately, “yet the concepts are two sides of the same coin.”

In this interview with The Post, Monekosso launches a call for action by all Africans to engage in the fight for survival. He holds that one of Africa’s most debilitating problems is poor health as it is delaying the socio-economic take-off of the continent.

“All Africans and their friends must believe that we can shape our attitudes for self-reliance and promote Afro-optimism,” he says.

Read on:

The Post: Who are you and how did you come to think of Africa on a Journey to Self-Reliance?

I am Gottlieb Lobe Monekosso, an 87-year-old Cameroonian living in Buea. I am native of Dibombari and Chief of the Bwataka Clan.

I am retired from active public service but devoted to research on Africa’s problems in health and development and in the enjoyment of our cultures in our peaceful country.

I have had the unusual privilege of holding positions over several decades in Cameroon and many other African countries; and being able to visit all African countries.

As a professor of medicine, I had the privilege of looking after the sick and teaching medical and health sciences students in East and West Africa and creating the University Medical Centre in my home country.

I also participated in the creation of new medical schools in other countries.

As Director of W.H.O in Africa, I reorganised the working of W.H.O in member countries.

I also introduced decentralisation of the health sector, creating health districts and national committees against HIV/AIDS.

I equally introduced health as a programme in the Organisation of African Unity.

I attended ten successive annual summits of the Heads of State and Government of the O.A.U which gave me the opportunity to meet many African presidents and prime ministers.

Finally, in my 20 years of retirement, I have been able to exercise the functions of a traditional ruler.

These opportunities to have contact with the summit as well as the local communities have given me a perspective of the African world such as I experienced treating patients ― the tall and the short―, as they say in Liberia.

This perspective of the African world has transformed me over the decades into an Africanist and this is why I could not resist introducing this initiative ― the Africa Communities Initiative (ACI) ― to the marketplace of ideas for implementation.

You have observed that the African continent is plagued by numerous problems…

This is true but all continents, countries, peoples invariably have problems. For Africa though, the last century has been one of recurring crises; one after the other and sometimes overlapping.

In fact, in 2005, the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, commissioned a group of experts and scholars to analyse the problems that plague Africa.

The Commission concluded that Africa’s problems are numerous, interlocking mutually reinforcing vicious circles which, I believe, should be tackled together in a holistic manner.

What makes you think that there are problems in Africa; have Africans complained that they face problems?

These problems are well known. They are recorded and published frequently in the media although their frequency and severity may be exaggerated by conscious or unconscious manipulation to create a phobia and afro-pessimism.

What is also true is that in our villages, many people are sick without knowing it and others simply adapt to living in poverty.

Africa Communities Initiative is your newest brainchild, what is its major concern?

Africa currently trails behind the rest of the world. While some nations are emerging as a force to be reckoned with, many of our aircraft are still waiting on the tarmac, unable to fulfil conditions for take-off.

We must work hard and coordinate our efforts to secure our place in the global village.

The goal of the Africa Communities Initiative (ACI) therefore, is to overcome the classical triad of poverty and dependency; ignorance and backwardness; and the devastating burden of disease and suffering.

The ultimate goal is to achieve healthy, productive and viable communities; thereby replacing the vicious circles with virtuous circles.

You want to replace Africa’s vicious circles with virtuous circles, how do you hope to tackle the vicious circles?

This would be done by creating wealth with the ultimate aim to overcome poverty and contribute to economic growth through agriculture, livestock and fisheries; commerce and services; and industry, craft and tourism.

Also, capacity building would be in the areas of education, skills and jobs; housing, hygiene and sanitation; and water, food and energy supplies with the ultimate aim to overcome ignorance and target social inclusion.

Health awareness would be raised through individual lifestyles, household health promotion and neighbourhood disease prevention to overcome disease and contribute to universal health coverage.

Communities, cooperatives and associations would achieve these results through the judicious utilisation of human resources, capital outlay, energy sources and raw material.

In reality, the vicious circles will disappear once the virtuous circles are put in place. It is like darkness disappearing from a room once the fire is lit.

Having diagnosed Africa’s ills, what strategies have you for
resolving them? Are there any opportunities for action?

Yes, by all means. There is an urgent need for strategies that will peacefully accelerate the socio-economic development of Africa.

Because health and development are two sides of the same coin (healthy people will produce wealth and wealth would result in better health), the ACI projects a health and development synergy as a strategy to achieve healthy productive viable self-reliant communities.

Is this what you call the Journey to Self-reliance?

This is what I call The Journey to Self-Reliance. It is an opportunity for action. It is organised like a journey by air in three phases: before take-off (planning), during the journey (implementation) and after landing (evaluation), each community or groups of communities making this trip in their time and at their own pace.

Phase one is the preparatory phase when communities are sensitised to join the Initiative; encouraged to create or reinforce functional dialogue structures and multi-disciplinary teams of young graduates; and promote existing community financial arrangements.

In phase two, participating communities undertake health and development projects while they document and promote key initiatives such as judicious utilisation of resources, new or on-going economic ventures, social interventions, capacity building and health achievements.

Finally, phase three is designed to monitor and sustain progress in economic growth, social development and health achievements using appropriate indicators; create health and develop knowledge banks (virtual and /or physical) and promote competition and emulation between and among themselves.

Is this strategy really urgent?

This strategy is especially relevant today. Firstly, because of the advent of decentralisation which empowers communities to be more involved in decision making, given that local councils are the interface between government and people in villages and neighbourhoods.

Secondly, the proliferation of ICT tools enables elites at home and abroad to connect and stay in touch.

With these tools, elites, widely separated, can mobilise and manage resources and execute health and development projects in their local communities.

This is already happening although in an uncoordinated and isolated manner.

Lastly, the ACI is coming at a time when the government is creating community-based structures (such as multi-media centres and community radios) which will be utilised by the populations of local communities as well as special programmes for youths and women.

You can’t possibly launch such a noble mission in a vacuum without the necessary human, material and financial resources…

…Of course, you are right. This is a community ownership initiative; therefore each community will mobilise and manage its own resources.

Human resources will constitute the entire population in a community especially young graduates awaiting gainful employment, active retired professionals for supervision and mentoring and women working at home, the meeting point of health and development.

ICT tools and their maintenance will be the main material resources.

Financial resources will come from government subventions, the business community and foundations as well as contributions from elites at home and abroad.

The finality being self-reliance; people will be responsible for the overall management of their resources.

This is why the local councils will shoulder, on behalf of Government, the responsibility of direction, monitoring and evaluation.

What then are your expectations of ACI?

I think you mean the expectations of the Board of Trustees which needs to be set up to take responsibility for the Initiative.

They would expect to see communities adopt the Initiative; households participating in communal activities; stakeholders promoting wealth creation, capacity building and health awareness.

Communities would look up to leadership with integrity.

Governments will support and give grants; elites will create networks and mobilise resources; competitions will be organised at local, national and continental levels; external partners will come in to support and contribute and inter-communal cooperation (twinning) will be fostered. All these will culminate in healthy, productive viable and self-reliant local communities within a decade, thereby contributing to the emergence of our country; and finally the ACI will contribute to solidarity and sustainable development in Africa.

Let every man sweep his compound and the whole village will be clean! In the end, we will all gain and Africa will be the winner! In this light, I would like to appreciate the assistance of young people and students, over the years, in my research on health and development in Africa especially Samuel Mofor and Ngime Epie who helped to develop the last drafts.

Interviewed by Azore Opio

*Website: www.globalhealthdialogue.org e-mail: globalhealth2202@yahoo.com or globalhealth03@gmail.com