Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Hon. Ummy Ally Mwalimu, Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children,
Dr. Mwele Malecela, Director General, National Institute for Medical Research,
Chairman of the National Institute for Medical Research Council,
Prof. Mohammad Bakari Kambi, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Community development, Gender, Elderly and Children,
Representatives of International Organizations,
Conference Participants,
Representatives from the Media,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen


It is a great honour to have the chance to say a few words at the opening ceremony of the 30th Annual Joint Scientific Conference of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).  I would like to take this first opportunity to welcome you all to this important conference. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our renowned speakers and participants who have come from all over the world, I say “KARIBUNI SANA TANZANIA”. We are delighted to have you with us.
I would also like to commend NIMR for holding its annual scientific conferences successfully and consistently over the past three decades; it is indeed something that should make all of us extremely proud. The interest of the international scientific community in health research is clearly reflected in the extensive preparatory work that has gone into the conference, and at the range of expertise gathered here today. I am witnessing first hand the enthusiasm of this community to drive efforts to promote biomedical research and safeguard public health.

Our goals for this Conference remain the same; to (i) promote health research for sustainable socio-economic development in Tanzania, Sub-Saharan Africa and the world at large; (ii) share and promote uptake of findings of health research with key stakeholders and the general public; and (iii) discuss and explore new health research and service priority areas.

It is therefore crucial that we will continue to find ways to make this annual event a fruitful process.
Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It brings me great pleasure to see the collection of high value scientific research findings that guide this event. During the 3-day conference you will have opportunity to delve into these findings directly, and engage in meaningful discussions on crucial research across a range of subjects. I have no doubt that you will find the selected topics interesting, and enrich your insights on health and social well-being.  This conference will provide you with exciting environment to exchange information on current development and deployment, potential approaches to scaling-up of innovative technologies in health research.

Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme of this conference, “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: Investing in Innovative Research to Fill the Critical Gaps”, is timely and relevant, nationally and globally. In order to reach sustainable development, it is essential to invest in fit-for-purpose innovative research in order to help our country to generate answers and solutions to many public health problems and challenges. Innovations like Takasamaji that provide safe drinking water to households is an example where NIMR is leading the way in providing such solutions. Our colleagues in Kisarawe and Geita can attest to this fact. What we need is for technologies like this to scale up and reach many more people who need them.

Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Innovative research is an important and vital tool in addressing fundamental gaps in research and policy issues. Innovative research will provide guidance to assist policy and decision makers as well as programme implementers to make informed evidence-based decision for the wellbeing of our nation. The evidence based Integrated Management of Childhood illnesses is a systems innovation that has made a major contribution to the decline in under-five mortality. Innovative research is an important element at all stages of development, specifically the creation and diffusion of technologies important for economic growth and welfare across all economies.

I am glad to inform you that the National Institute for Medical Research has been conducting numerous innovative research programmes focusing mainly on addressing public health problems. The research efforts have covered communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases and health systems. Some of the research programmes have yielded interesting results which have been adopted in various interventions.  A case in point is exemplified by Mwanza in the early 1990’s, where Sexually Transmitted Infections where on the rise and diagnosis was costly and time consuming. The NIMR team developed the syndromic management of STI’s. The story of insecticide treated nets has its humble origins in the experimental huts in Zeneti village in Muheza, where the original proof of concept work was done. Today we sleep under nets without a second thought that is was someone’s hard work and perseverance that led to this breakthrough. I would like to commend NIMR for this work and to urge them to continue to focus on research that addresses the needs of our country.

Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sustainable development goals (SDGs) is an ambitious new development agenda that calls for all governments – by 2030 – to end extreme poverty and hunger, achieve gender equality, reduce domestic inequality, improve health and education, combat climate change, make production and consumption sustainable, preserve our nature resources and ensure peaceful societies, among many other areas.

The agenda is an intergovernmental set of 17 aspiration goals and 169 targets.  Sustainable development goals can be achieved by dedicating ourselves to innovative health research approaches across all the sustainable development goals. This will not only end poverty but also bring dramatic improvements in quality of life, the environment and governance for everyone to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.

Moreover, the concept of Sustainable Development is based on a set of requirements. It must allow for the basic needs of present and future generations to be fulfilled with regard to demographic challenges, such as: access to safe water, quality education, improved health, employment, and the fight against hunger or malnutrition. The over-arching aim of the goals is to improve quality of life, which involves improved access to medical care, social services, culture, and therefore, social well-being. In addition, respect for rights and freedoms and the promotion of new forms of renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal power, are important aspects of sustainable development. With 45% of Tanzanians being under the age of 15, investments in family planning, education, health, industrialisation and good governance are crucial to harnessing the demographic dividend for socio-economic transformation. It is in this context that research becomes a cornerstone for this transformation and I urge you at NIMR whose focus is better health for all Tanzanians through research to take this mantra to heart as we address the SDGs.

Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is time that our research institutions plan and adopt highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research, health systems and social determinants of health. However we must be guided by our priorities and needs while carrying out world-class science. I argue that the two are not mutually exclusive and we must not be made to feel that working on our priority issues undermines our scientific credibility. My government is keen to continue supporting the design, development and deployment of innovative scientific technology to accelerate the translation of research into improved health. Such programmes should allow researchers to propose highly creative research projects across a broad range of biomedical fields of research. These may involve inherent risks, but have the potential to lead to meaningful breakthroughs. All research institutions should encourage creative thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas about biomedical, health systems and social research.

Promoting innovative research is equally important to promoting cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches researchers. The day of the single lone researcher working on a discovery is long gone. Today consortia are what drive science, groups of people working with a common goal. I would like to cite the Tanzanian genome network working on different aspects of genomics from different institutions but coming up with transformational solutions for the development of our country.

It is important that your research aligns with the stated goals of the SDGs. It is clear that the challenges of development are multi-sectoral. The new agenda acknowledges that different sectors must take steps within their means to reduce poverty and inequality, improve health and education outcomes, create more jobs, make infrastructure more sustainable and take better care of our nation. Unfortunately, Tanzania has yet to establish a robust framework for intersectoral assessment and planning (especially between health and relevant non-health sectors). Lessons elsewhere in places such as Finland and Mexico in the fight against Non Communicable Diseases show that cross-sector integration in health planning and management is cost-effective and sustainable. I would like to urge those of you present to day to innovatively engage in developing best practices to generate evidence that would support “health in all policies” strategies in addressing the SDGs. 

Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guest, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have seen for my self the array of sponsors who have committed both financially, in time and in kind to make this conference a success. Let me join the Director General in thanking you for this support. We recognize your efforts and hope that you will continue to support health research as one of your CSR activities. I am informed that NIMR houses a Research Trust Fund which supports research in priority areas in health, and that since its inception in 1996 it has been source of small explatory and proof of concept studies of relevance to our country. My plea to you sponsors today is to see how you can support this fund so that we can fund research that focuses on our own priorities. I am encouraged that there will be a session to look at new models of funding health research during this conference. I urge you especially those from the private sector to bring your voice to this discussion so that we can come up with sustainable models with strong local input to fund research.

Honourable Minister, Distinguished Guest, Ladies and Gentlemen
Last but not least I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate NIMR on the organization of this promising conference. I would also like to congratulate the NIMR Management for a job well-done thank you for your continuing commitment to health research in the country. Let me assure you that my government is keen to support the conduct of quality innovative research in Tanzania and I look forward to receiving evidence-based recommendations from this conference for implementation purposes.

It is now my pleasure to declare the 30th AJSC officially open. With that I wish you all a very successful and fruitful meeting. I also wish you a pleasant stay in the beautiful city of Dar es Salaam. Please, take time to visit our beautiful National Parks, Conservation Areas, Game Reserves as well as attractive historical sites in Zanzibar and Bagamoyo.

God bless Africa, God bless Tanzania, God bless NIMR


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