SETAC Africa Meeting a huge success
Patricia Bi, University of Dschang, Cameroon; Vernon Somerset, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa
In April, we reported on the preparations for the then upcoming conference jointly organised by the SETAC Africa Branch and the Cameroon Society for Toxicological Sciences (CSTS) Africa Organising Committee. It gives us great pleasure to report that this meeting was successfully held from 31 May to 3 June 2011, at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Buea in Buea, Cameroon. We are also using this opportunity to share some of the highlights of this meeting with you.
SETAC Africa Council Meetings
The meeting of the SETAC Africa Branch and the CSTS started with the SETAC Africa Council members arriving a few days ahead of the conference and meeting on 30 May 2011 at the Capitol Hotel. Council members who attended included Nabil Bashir, Silke Bollmohr, Bernard Kiremire, Mmochi Aviti, Patricia Fai and Ammar Sorag (Figure 1); all but Nabil Bashir were sponsored by the SETAC World Council. Norah Basopo arrived late and so did not participate at this first meeting but just came in time to join us for snapshots at the end of the meeting (Figure 2). A second council meeting was later held in the presence of SWC president Paul van den Brink, who clarified several issues being discussed. At the end of the meetings, the major outcome was the decision by the council members to seek independent Geographic Unit status for SETAC Africa.
Figure 1. (from right to left) Nabil Bashir, Silke Bollmohr, Bernard Kiremire, Patricia Fai and Ammar Sorag
Figure 2. (from left to right) Back row: Nabil Bashir, Silke Bollmohr, Bernard Kiremire, Ammar Sorag; front row: Norah Basopo, Mmochi Aviti and Patricia Fai
Conference Participants and Sponsorships
The conference was truly international with participants coming from all continents except South America and Australia (Figure 3). Out of the conference’s 158 participants, 93 (58.9%) were Cameroonians and 65 were international participants. Not surprisingly, Nigerians dominated the foreigners, making up to 54% (35 in number). Conference participants came from 19 different countries: Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, France, Ghana, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, USA, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Figure 3. Meeting participants
At least 28 participants benefitted from SETAC sponsorship, many of whom would not have been able to come without the funding. The level of SETAC sponsorship varied, but in many cases covered the cost of international flights, lodging, food and conference registration fees. In addition, 14 participants benefitted from free 2-year SETAC membership dues sponsored by SWC.
The conference was preceded by two days of short courses delivered by several renowned scientists and these were very much appreciated by all participants. The conference officially opened on the morning of 2 June by Paul van den Brink. Asongalem Emmanuel, chair of the local organising committee and host (University of Buea), gave the welcome address. Patricia Fai, who represented SETAC Africa in the LOC, gave a brief background on the collaboration between CSTS and SETAC Africa and how the joint conference came about.
The plenary sessions provided the platform for interesting discussions on topical issues ranging from general toxicology to specialized ecotoxicology issues. Some of the highlights of the plenary presentations are described below. The plenary lecture delivered by Michiel Daam (Portugal) on “Aquatic ecotoxicology of pesticides under temperate versus tropical climates” demonstrated that there were no consistent differences between the degradation rates of some pesticides between temperate and tropical climates as well as no differences in sensitivities between temperate and tropical species to the pesticides. He also shared with the participants that with a creative mind, a lot can be achieved with very limited resources, as is usually the case in most African countries. This was a very welcome message for all participants.
In another lecture delivered by Mathew Muzi-Nindi (South Africa) on the topic “Technological development in mass spectrometry and chromatography: pharmaceutical personal care products, hormones, veterinary drugs residue in waste waters treatment plants, Africa’s challenge,” the potential of charged aerosol detector–high pressure liquid chromatography (CAD–HPLC) as a cheap and sensitive detector for multi-residue determination of hormones, prescription medicines and personal health care products, was demonstrated.
The presentation by David Kapindula (Zambia) on “SAICM implementation and update on progress in the African region” discussed emerging issues in toxicology and provided an opportunity for most of the participants to share their ideas as a very lively discussion was entertained. SAICM is the Strategic Approach for International Chemicals Management, which is a global framework established in 2006 to achieve the goal expressed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development that “by 2020, chemicals should be produced and used in ways that minimize significant impacts on human health and the environment.” Several key issues emerged from that discussion, which included
- a need to sensitize African governments on chemical toxicology issues;
- a need for improved national regulation of chemicals;
- initiating a solution to reduce exposure to chemicals (e.g., tackle unregulated sale of chemicals on the market), since every country has laws, but implementation is a general problem;
- communication between policy makers and public are poor to nonexistent, as there are problems of communication and translation of policies;
- communication between African scientists and policy makers/public should be improved; and
- students are in need of freedom of choice when choosing research topics in collaboration with their supervisors, allowing them to follow their own interests instead of fulfilling that of the supervisors.
The conference was further characterised by other topics and with a total of approximately 70 posters presented, debate and discussions varied between subjects during the two days of the conference (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Poster sessions at the SETAC Africa meeting
The closing ceremony was presided over by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea, Titanji. Closing remarks, summary speeches and acknowledgements were made by the chair of the LOC, Asongalem Emmanuel, the Vice president of SETAC Africa, Patricia Fai, and the CSTS president, Fomban William. SETAC donated several books that were brought by Paul van den Brink and offered as prizes for student poster and platform presentations. The Vice Chancellor expressed his joy at the interesting discourse observed at the meeting, as well as his personal observations about the high standard of the conference. He was particularly impressed by the gender representation at the meeting, including the impressive number of female students who received prizes. He encouraged all participants to maintain the relationships created at the conference and to develop lasting collaborations, before declaring the conference closed. The LOC has further expressed their gratitude to all participants and sponsors for their support in making this conference such a huge success. Particular thanks goes to the SWC and SETAC Europe, who were the main sponsors and also assisted in many practical aspects of the conference planning such as creating and maintaining the conference website, managing online abstract submission and payments. The background support of some individuals like SETAC World Executive Director Mike Mozur, SWC treasurer Fred Heimbach and SETAC Europe Executive Director Dave Arnold and his entire staff, was invaluable. The presence of SWC president Paul van den Brink also gave a great boost to the conference.
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