From Kenya to Kazakhstan: Learning with new partners from Africa

Feb 2, 2016

Some spent two days on airplanes; others changed seasons, jumping from winter to summer in less than 24 hours.

Twenty-four healthcare and health-policy professionals from seven countries in Africa had come to Astana for a 10-day workshop on public health organized by UNDP and the Government of Kazakhstan.

Conducted by instructors from National Laboratory of Nazarbayev University Centre for Life Sciences, classes centered on epidemiology, biomedicine and public health.

Catherine Mukenyang is a health executive in one of Kenya’s 47 counties, West Pokot.  She is one of the few in her community to have finished high school and gone on to university.

When she was young, her mother used to take her to a clinic located nearby their native village. Catherine admired the nurses who she saw in the clinic, but seeing outdated and even harmful medical practices in her field inspired her.

“We still use retrogressive practices like female genital mutilation. It is really hampering the girl’s education. It is a challenge, and that one propelled me to think about going into medicine.”

Botswanan nurse and midwife, Mabole Masweu spoke of Kazakhstan’s strengths in medical research:

“As ambassadors from our respective countries, this is an opportunity to start bilateral relations between our countries and Kazakhstan, as a gateway to central Asia, not only for betterment of public health, but also other sectors of the community.

The training wasn’t only about Kazakhstan sharing its experience. It was also an opportunity for the country to host one of its first international study tours for professionals from other countries in Africa. Head of Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory at Nazarbayev University, Adil Supiyev, who conducted some of workshops noted:

“We used to work mainly with locals. Here we have a diverse audience, and it is very useful. We have learned a lot about how we can share information with international and diverse audiences.”

Africa and South-South cooperation

The workshop has become a logical continuation of a series of initiatives that Kazakhstan has conducted to strengthen relations with the continent.

In 2013, Kazakhstan became an observer nation to the African Union and the country is taking bigger steps towards building closer cooperation throughout the African continent.

The first group of professionals has finished their studies. Two more groups of specialists in oil and gas and agriculture will be coming next. As UNDP Administrator Helen Clark remarked earlier this year at the Astana Economic Forum:

“The priority Kazakhstan is giving to expanding South-South Co-operation and building its links with Africa is creating new opportunities to support Africa’s emergence. UNDP is committed to supporting Kazakhstan’s efforts to advance sustainable development at home, in Africa, and beyond.”

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