Bangkok, Thailand, September 4, 2014 — A “centre of excellence” that aims to increase capacity for pharmacy education in the African region was officially launched today at the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Its main purpose is to help pharmacy schools in Africa produce desperately needed pharmacists through the sharing of teaching resources, staff exchange to increase academic capacity and joint problem-solving.
The Centre of Excellence for Africa, formed as part of a FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN programme, has five major areas of activity — capability, innovation, clinical training, communication and quality. “The centre is virtual in that it has no physical location. Rather, it is an organised network that encourages input from a large number of pharmacy schools, enabling far greater involvement than a physical centre,” explained Jennifer Marriott, director of the FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN collaboration.
As part of the FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN programme pharmacy schools around the world can access free resources contributed by universities around the world to support educational activities and this is particularly useful for resource poor schools such as those in many parts of Africa. These resources are available at saber.monash.edu and include programs such as MyDispense (a pharmacy simulator that allows students to practise dispensing) and an online tableting plant.
“Centre of excellence tools, especially for practical demonstrations in situations lacking such facilities would be of benefit. For example, at our school, an online tableting plant would be of great learning value for the trainee pharmacy students,” said Lungwani Muungo,
founding head of the pharmacy department at the University of Zambia and current dean of the School of Pharmacy, Nutrition & Dietetics at Lusaka Apex Medical University.
Africa was chosen as the first region to benefit from a centre of excellence because its needs are greatest with the lowest density of pharmacists in the world. The FIP Education Initiative’s 2013 global education report indicated that African countries tend to have lower educational capacity and supply pipelines for pharmacists. Of the 20 countries found to have the lowest number of pharmacy graduates per capita in a survey of 95, 16 were African.
Today, the Centre of Excellence for Africa’s founding partners — representatives of pharmacy schools in Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia — gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, to sign the ratification documents.
“The formation of the African centre of excellence has great potential to advance pharmacy education in the region by increasing inter-nation cooperation and targeting local priorities for action. One of the activities of the centre is to develop an expertise map to facilitate staff exchange between schools in the region,” Professor Marriott said.
The centre of excellence is part of a larger body of work that includes the continued development of sustainable and significant working partnerships between African leaders in education and development and the FIP Education Initiative, and the development of advanced pharmacy practice or specialisations in an African context.
Further centres are planned for other regions of need. “The centre of excellence is developing an environment to share ideas, expertise and to find solutions to common problems. What we learn during the formation of the Centre of Excellence for Africa can be used to develop other centres to provide assistance to pharmacy education in countries through a shared practice model,” Professor Marriott added.