“Africa’s biodiversity is quite important for the planet," says Oxford University's Eric Nana, "because the forests in Africa serve as carbon sinks which somehow reduce global warming."
The Cameroonian conservation biologist adds that this is threatened because "one problem is that Africa is losing this biodiversity in different parts.”
In the continent's central region, the main causes of biodiversity loss are illegal hunting or poaching. Studies have estimated that five million tons of bushmeat are trafficked yearly from the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, Nana said.
Research veterinarian at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi, Mercy Akinyi, says that human health and the health of ecosystems are intertwined, something highlighted by the appearance and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we see is disease emergence especially for those that have the potential to lead to pandemics…Definitely, the emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases is really a huge public health threat, and they come with devastating economic impacts.”
Akinyi recommends certain changes in policy-making and strong collaboration among governments to be better prepared for health emergencies.
“`Data sharing about different things is equally really crucial within countries and between countries because diseases do not know boundaries.”
Ohio State University professor and researcher Tanya Berger-Wolf says that There’s a lot of data that already exists but are not connected in any good way to give a global picture. So, artificial intelligence and data science can really help connect existing data to give a global picture.
Nana and others call on governments across the continent and beyond to share experiences, exchange ideas, and engage in collaborative research on how best to use science to transform lives in Africa.