Johannesburg, South Africa - The third and final day of the Africa Tobacco Situational Analyses (ATSA) meeting on February 4 enabled participants to reflect and comment on the outcomes of the presentations, discussions, and activities they engaged in throughout the consultation. In addition to sharing key findings from the ATSA projects, the South Africa meeting focused on identifying existing opportunities on the continent to facilitate the implementation of tobacco control policies, as well as coordination mechanisms to mobilize the various resources required to implement strategies. Results from the situational analyses showed participants that credible tobacco control initiatives were underway, and that progress had been made in important tobacco control measures in recent years. Country-level policy change dealt primarily with bans on advertisement and promotion, and the establishment of smoke-free places. Other critical policy interventions, such as the uptake of pictorial health warnings and the increase of tobacco taxes, were addressed by only a few countries. Important cross-cutting issues were also identified, exposing some of the common challenges faced by the tobacco control community in Africa. Those issues included: capacity-building, for civil society advocates and key decision-makers involved in tobacco control policies; increasing demand, funding, and scholarly involvement in tobacco control research; the importance of continuously providing evidence-based information to policy-makers for successful advocacy. The need to incorporate new strategies within other health-related issues was also highlighted. As an illustration, smoking is strongly related to tuberculosis (TB) and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 20% of global TB incidence may be attributable to smoking. Tobacco monitoring and evaluation was also clearly identified as a priority, not only in relation to policy implementation and expenditure accountability, but also in the surveillance of tobacco industry interference.
Important lessons were drawn from the individual country experiences shared at this meeting. For example, it was determined that strategies specific to Africa were needed to secure the implementation of FCTC compliant tobacco control policies on a continent marked by constantly changing political environments. With 100 representatives from 29 African countries in attendance, the meeting was an excellent illustration of the important role of increased collaboration, cooperation, and coordination between tobacco control advocates on the continent, a necessity that the ACS-led Africa Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC) hopes to address through its activities and programs. The meeting was officially concluded with an address by Dr. Stella Anyangwe, WHO’s representative for South Africa. She congratulated participants for “an invaluable meeting that allowed all partners to understand their core competencies and comparative strengths and advantages,” adding that “this meeting should be used as a foundation for future similar collaboration and cooperation.”