The African Continental Association for Food Protection (ACAFP) successfully held its inaugural conference on Food Safety for Africa on the 10th & 11th November 2021 in partnership with the African Union Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Association for Food Protection. Whilst we would have liked to have had an in-person conference the ongoing COVID-19 situation prompted the decision to hold the conference virtually.
Given that Africans suffer the highest burden of foodborne diseases worldwide with an estimated 137 000 deaths and over 91 million illnesses annually, food safety is a huge public health and economic concern in Africa. Food safety is a responsibility for all and has a great impact on the social wellbeing of the people and economic development in Africa.
The overall theme for the conference was Food Safety in Africa: Past, Current and the Future. Sub-themes included Food Safety Governance in Africa, The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems in Africa, Food Safety from Field-to-Bowl in Africa, Food Safety Control Systems in Africa: The Role of Traditional and Emerging Technology and Academic, Research and Development Partnerships in Food Safety: National, Regional Continental and International Initiatives. Speakers were invited under the various sub-themes and whilst some opted to pre-record their presentations, the majority presented live. A call for poster abstracts was sent out and the response received was excellent. Poster presenters were required to prepare an e-poster and a short 3 – 5-minute recording giving an overview of their research. These were displayed on the virtual conference platform for the duration of the conference and the recordings were streamed during the lunch break on both days. On average there were between 60 – 104 delegates present in each session. Feedback received from attendees was very positive and indicated that they found great value and learning in the content that was presented.
The virtual conference was held on the Hubilo platform which proved easy to navigate and also allowed for networking between attendees and the speakers. The programme content was streamed to the platform for attendees to watch and pose questions. The platform also allowed for exhibition stands, poster presentation displays and networking. The platform was also accessible for two weeks after the conference which allowed attendees who had other commitments or network issues to watch the lectures and explore the posters and exhibition at their leisure. The conference attracted approximately 250 delegates with a large portion of this number being students and we are thrilled to be able to have given them access to lectures from experts in their fields.
Overall, the conference proved to be a great success and we are looking forward to future events with ACAFP.