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Lenias Hwenda : « The podcast takes an in depth look at the factors that drive health challenges in Africa »

Lenias Hwenda, expert in health global governance and CEO/Founder of « Medicines for Africa », has just launched a podcast  « Let’s Talk about Health in Africa » where she discusses the major health challenges facing African people. She gives us more details in this interview. 

What is « Let’s talk about health in Africa » podcast ? 

“Let’s Talk about Health in Africa” is a Podcast that discusses major health challenges facing people on the African continent and taking an in depth look at some of the factors that drive these challenges from a social, economic, political and historical perspective. The health of Africans is affected by decisions made within African countries themselves but also by decisions of many governments and other actors outside Africa. So to understand the state of healthcare in Africa, it is necessary that we put these challenges in the appropriate geopolitical context by looking at health geopolitics from the eye of Africans.

What prompted you to start it ?

The Podcast was prompted by the many conversations our team at “Medicines for Africa” has been having with people across the African continent during over the past several years when we have been working on the ground. When the Covid-pandemic hit, it put a spotlight of these issues and their impact on the lives of ordinary Africans. We say that the conversation about these issues tends to be superficial and very one dimensional and certainly do no empower Africans to be agents of change. We wanted to have conversations that would delve deep into these issues and create urgency amongst Africans.

What are the objectives of this podcast?

The objective of the Podcast is to connect millions of people across the African continent with information about healthcare services starting with the current state of healthcare in Africa, why this status quo has not changed after decades of investment. The raison d’etre of the conversations is to highlight some solutions and ideas that are being put into actions in some communities across the African continent who are dealing with similar health challenges. We aim to create urgency amongst leaders, practitioners, changemakers by connecting them impactful actions that could transform health care and the quality of life of African people.

What is the added value of these podcasts?

The Podcast moves people from aspirations to action by focusing on concrete actions that are being taken to solve major health challenges affecting African communities, putting a spotlight on the missing pieces that are limiting the impact of the actions currently being taken and the specific concrete actions that need to be taken to close the gap. The Podcast gets African people to connect with the individual responsibility that each one has to bring the change.

What topics do you cover in your podcasts? And how do you choose your guests?

We cover social, economic and structural issues that drives poor health amongst African people, from how much we invest in health, what we chose to invest in, the impact of decisions made at national and global level on the health of Africans etc. 

We normally have a topic that we want to talk about and then we reach out to the best experts who have dealt with the issue or have been affected by it to help us delve into it. We also get recommendations from people in our networks and our listeners etc. We welcome suggestions on some of the people our listeners would like to hear and what specific health topics they are interested in.

 Who are these podcasts aimed at?

The Podcast is aimed at all people who live and work in Africa who are either tackling or are affected by some of the challenges we discuss. Our content has relevance to the communities of practitioners and changemakers who are at the forefront of addressing health challenges of African people and the leaders who make decisions that affect how these challenges are tackled in countries. We have also seen interests from academics who find our content useful for teaching students in a number of disciplines that include health sciences like schools of pharmacy, schools of medicine, schools of nursing and other as well as global health, international affairs, policy and development studies.

Do you plan to translate them into other languages?

Absolutely! Health is an issue that concerns all Africans, and there are 1.3 billion of us speaking more than 2000 languages. So we definitely plan to translate these podcasts into some of the major languages spoken across the region to make sure that this content is accessible to people in different parts of Africa. Our aspiration is to start by providing this content in the main official languages, French, Portuguese and Arabic and then expand from that to major languages like Swahili and others. Africa is so rich and diverse in its languages and cultures and if we want to bring ideas and actions that can transform the health of African, then we would need to provide that information in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner.

Interviewed by Danielle Engolo