Every year, members of the Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations, FAMSA, come together in what is perhaps the largest multicultural gathering of medical students in Africa which we call a General Assembly. This year is set to see the thirty-second of its kind hosted by the University of Ibadan Medical Students’ Association in the ancient city of Ibadan. In what the Englishman would call killing two birds with a stone, the host MSA has decided to chip in a proper scientific conference designed around the theme ‘Repositioning Healthcare in Africa for Sustainable Development’. With subthemes from the sustainable development goals and the African student to maternal and child care in Africa, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental illnesses and health policies, and distinguished speakers from Africa and over the seas, the conference is indeed well-positioned to get balls rolling in the different germane aspects of healthcare in Africa.
On the website designed specially for the event, famsaga2018.com, the conference aims to “bring together young vibrant minds as well as professionals and relevant stakeholders in both the public and private sectors from across Africa and beyond to discuss ideas and initiate steps to position Africa on the path to sustainable development in health and by extension in every other sphere of human development”. With about 1,500 delegates expected to attend, one wonders what really to expect.
No doubt, many Nigerian students, especially those who have been at conventions and conferences within the country, remain skeptical. What if this and what if that? For a conference with sponsors the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and the speakers the likes of the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation smacks of an unusual care given by the organising committee to the planning of this event.
Then again, it may not be so much the obvious academic strides conferences such as these may afford one, as it is other ‘little’ things as accommodation and feeding. Often one finds that when these are overlooked, it is akin to having to eat a saltless meal however exquisitely prepared it may be. The hotels and suites booked for accommodation come well advertised and suited for everyone according to the financial capabilities of each. If they come as advertised, then by all indications, the University of Ibadan Medical Students’ Associations have well laid-out plans to serve all those who may grace the 5-day event a well-garnished multiple-course meal.
One of the World’s finest, Chinua Achebe, said in his book, Things Fall Apart, “When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so”. It is indeed good for medical students, kinsmen of sorts, to come together not just in plenary sessions and workshops lined up in the conferences, but also in excursions and tea breaks, in a cultural night and a dinner event. These too therefore have found a place in the schedule planned for the delegates from the different African MSAs.
In all, we have here an event in which many details, fine and gross, have not been left to chance. We have here young persons seeking to change an indifferent world. We have here eager minds and hearts waiting to play host to Nigeria, to Africa, to the world.