A reflective letter from the out-going President

The greatest honour for me was to be part of helping to shape the African Nutrition Society and its Africa Nutritional Epidemiology Conference (ANEC) over the course of its 14 years in championing the nutrition agenda across Africa. I have seen ANEC events traverse the continent and now, undoubtedly become the conference of choice to diverse professionals with an active interest in nutrition. During my four year tenure as President of the ANS, I had received tremendous support and encouragement from our Trustees. This gave me the motivation to move the Society a notch up and join global players to bring nutrition to the fore and have it established as paramount to every single individual, young or old and one that has far reaching implications to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Our founding visionaries set for this great Society a movement that will “create a unified continental nutrition profession of individual members, provide a continental professional scientific forum, promote training, research and capacity building in nutrition and contribute to workforce development to meet Africa’s nutrition and health policy agenda.

To my mind the hurricane of change has started and will thrive. I can attest to this vision because over the course of the four years and efforts by my predecessors, the ANS has sought to promote collegiality by bringing together individuals across Africa and other parts of the world during its biennial conference – ANEC. Not only have I watched with admiration countless conference participants spoke about how much our conferences has showcased professionalism, there exist a strong sense of belonging and intellectual interactions amongst diverse cultures and diverse languages, and especially provided a forum for students, graduates and professionals to identify the richness of our cultural diversity, professional interests, shared values within the contexts of the nutritional issues we confront in our various countries. The ANEC has come to stay and consolidated itself as providing a scientific platform for individuals can meet, interact and form professional collaborations and student networks through meaningful scientific dialogues and sharing of best practices. Under my leadership over the past four years and with the endorsement and guidance of our Trustees, the ANS has worked hard to promote standards of high quality scientific training, research capability and sound professional practice and leadership, necessary to drive nutrition and health policy into the heart of countries where our members come from. Great strides have been made especially through:

These goals are met by engaging in the following core activities:

  • ANS (ANEC) Conferences and Training Workshops
  • ANS News and Events

The ingredients have been assembled and the foundations are being laid to within the short term gain grounds on the following some of which are far advanced:

  • Development of a professional practice framework leading to professional registration and accreditation,
  • Curriculum development, harmonisation and accreditation of nutrition programmes in Africa,
  • Capacity building and scientific development projects,
  • Public-private partnerships and linkages with the scientific and academic communities, industry, non-governmental organisations and international agencies for the benefit of ANS members and the wider public interest,
  • Publications to promote intellectual and research outputs across Africa e.g. through relevant and high quality scholarly articles published in the African Journal of Nutrition (AJN), ANS’ official journal.

The Team

The ANS has been privileged to benefit from Africa’s finest sons and daughters who have provided tremendous leadership and direction to this great movement:

  • Dr Habiba Hassan-Wassef – Egypt
  • Dr Paul Amuna – Ghana
  • Rev Dr Tom Ndanu – Ghana
  • Prof Maria Nyepi – Botswana
  • Dr Linley Chiwona-Karltun – Malawi
  • Prof Johann Jerling – South Africa
  • Dr Cherinet Abuye – Ethiopia
  • Dr Francis B. Zotor – Ghana

The first and second Past Presidents and Trustees (Prof Anna Lartey – Ghana and Prof Wilna Oldewage-Theron – South Africa) were instrumental in helping found the ANS and leading it. These great daughters still serve in various capacities and lend their wisdom.

At the just ended seventh ANEC, the Annual General Meeting endorsed the election of three new Trustees:

  • Prof Nnam Ngozi – Nigeria
  • Ms Julia Tagwireyi – Zimbabwe
  • Prof Sidiga Washi – Sudan

The AGM also endorsed the following into office;

  • Dr Amos Laar – President of the ANS
  • Dr Thomas Adepoju – Secretary-General of the ANS

The Regional Representatives who will help move the nutrition agenda within the subregions are as follows:

  • Dr Sisay Sinamo – Ethiopia (East Africa Region)
  • Tonde Matsungo – Zimbabwe (Southern Africa Region)
  • Dr Ali Jafri – Morocco (North Africa Region)
  • Mercy Olufolakemi Anjorin (West Africa Region)
  • Dr Modestine Marie Kana SOP (Central Africa Region)

Two great sons of Africa who have previously held these roles and deserve mention are: Dr Robert Fungo – immediate past Secretary-General of the ANS and Dr Victor Owino – past Regional representative of the East Africa).

Achievements and putting ANS on the global stage

On the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Platform

  1. Active Membership of Ghana SUN Academic Platform and the Society has contributed to workshops and publications for the SUN platform on conflict of interest, social protection report and bridging the gap between research and policy,
  2. Active member of Civil Society Network contributing to the advancement of SUN Movement objectives at global level,
  3. Active Member, SUN Movement Academic Platform Taskforce Subcommittee.

Within Africa, the ANS has been active in playing a leadership role in Nutrition at various levels:

  1. NEPAD’s Expert Panel on Nutrition
  2. Active participant at West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) events
  3. Active participant at Africa Union Commission events in nutrition

Major constraints

A major constraint for ANS that has dogged us since its inception has largely been financial:

  1. Resource mobilization has been our biggest challenge. The Executive and Board of Trustees have worked tirelessly to source funding from various institutions, especially in Africa, but we are still hopeful the needed help will come in.
  2. Setting up a physical office for the ANS secretariat for the day-to-day activities of the Society.

Efforts in integrating Francophone membership

Over the course of the last four years, the Board of Trustees has made conscious efforts to increase membership from Francophone countries. In making efforts to demonstrate our commitment to this goal, the ANS has worked steadily with financial support from the FAO, to provide simultaneous translations from French to English and vice versa.

African Nutrition Matters (ANM)

The African Nutrition Matters (ANM), which is the official Newsletter of the African Nutrition Society with oversight from the Board of Trustees, has published five issues to date since its establishment in 2012. This has been made possible by the team of dedicated volunteers, who voluntarily gave their time and expertise, to run the ANM and deserve a round of applause.

E-learning Nutrition imitative: The eNutrition Academy

The ‘ANS Trustees’ continues to participate in the strengthening of the e-learning nutrition platform. The platform is an international consortium of nutrition societies; the African Nutrition Society (ANS), the Nutrition Society of Great Britain and Ireland (NutSoc), the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), the Federation of African Nutrition Societies (FANUS), and the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS). Since its establishment in 2014, the eNA has sought to use the e-learning platform to provide nutrition e-learning materials for the education, training and professional development of scientists, students, practitioners and nutrition service providers in African countries. Therefore, we envisage a large section of society members benefiting from this initiative.

As an ongoing initiative, the eNA has applied for an International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) grant of €100,000 per year, for three years, under the leadership of Professor Sharon Donovan (ASN). This grant, if successful, will run from 2017 – 2019 and the application includes support for a Content Developer (based in Africa) and a consultant Course Developer (based in the UK). This three-year project application has been supported by the IUNS and IUFoST. Working in partnership with IUFoST and other organisations, the eNA will develop and launch 3 courses namely:

  • Effects of urbanisation on health and Nutrition
  • Climate change and food security
  • Food processing and food security

Financial management

Since its establishment, ANEC has continued to maintain a prudent financial system which is audited by Deon and Noed International. ANS also employed the services of Deon and Noed International in 2010. Doen and Noed is a reputably recognized international organization and has since its engagement with the ANS, maintained a rigorous financial management system, to guide ANS activities.The Society now has both local and foreign currency accounts (USD Dollar and Euro) with the UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA Accra Ghana and has three signatories to the accounts, namely, the Treasurer – Rev Dr. Tom Ndanu, Professor Anna Lartey, and Dr Amos Laar. Details of the financial status of the Society is usually posted on the ANS website for the benefit our members’ scrutiny.

Concluding statement

The ANS has been placed on a solid footing and can truly boast of a movement that has the foundations laid in readiness within which standards of high quality scientific training, research capability, clear strategic direction and sound professional practice can be built. With the strategic leadership and guidance of our esteemed Trustees, the essential ingredients of any professional body of repute, the ANS is ready to strive and ensure that its members and the leadership meet the criteria they set for themselves. Although established in Africa, notably, the membership of ANS is worldwide and open to nutritionists and allied professionals with a genuine interest in nutrition and its impacts on human and economic development in Africa.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to the successes recorded in the past four years. The British Nutrition Society can be singled out as having stood by the ANS since the inception of the Society. The ANS is also very grateful to the IUNS, the Nevin Scrimshaw – International Nutrition Foundation, the FAO, Action Against Hunger and a number of International NGOs and several other organisations too numerous to state in this report. The most appreciation goes to our members who have been consistent and stood by the ANS vision and mission and would therefore implore them to continue to stand by this great Movement so that together we can all work and build on the excellent foundation that has been laid. Africa!!, the world is waiting for us to take the initiative and lift the bucket to our knee and we can receive the help we need to carry it shoulder high.

Francis B. Zotor, PhD, RNutr, FHEA

Immediate Past President, African Nutrition Society

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