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COVID-19 / Codex Africa region holds first informal meeting online


The coronavirus outbreak has interrupted the schedule of physical meetings in Codex and led to a rethink of how countries within the Codex community, with its continuous cycle of committees and working groups, can stay connected when international meetings seem off the agenda for the time being.

On Tuesday 21 April 48 participants from 18 countries in the Codex CCAFRICA region, together with representatives from the African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, the Economic Community of West African States, FAO, WHO and the Codex Secretariat gathered online for an informal meeting chaired by the current Regional Coordinator, Kenya. Tom Heilandt, Codex Secretary provided an update on the series of meetings that have succumbed to the global coronavirus pandemic and explained how the Secretariat was working with committees and host governments to reschedule and maintain momentum on standards development. The meeting was also an opportunity for countries in the region to discuss the nomination of the next CCAFRICA coordinator, a decision pending following the last session of the committee held in Nairobi in September 2019.

An opportunity to exchange ideas.

Chairperson Kimutai Maritim, Kenya said: “In a time like this, where physical meetings are not possible, the use of technology is timely. It is cost effective and enables members to exchange ideas in an open and transparent manner”. He encouraged Codex to explore adopting this way of working in other committees. “If everyone can use it, it can fast track most of our Codex work”, he said.

Some countries in the region face challenges in participating in online meetings due to internet connectivity, however for a country like Mauritius who is often unable to attend physical meetings due to resource constraints the meeting was, in the words of Neeliah Shalini, “a great opportunity”.

Amadou Diouf, Senegal, described the meeting as an excellent initiative and applauded the use of innovative tools to bring the region together. “Congratulations for daring”, he said, urging countries in the region to use tools like Zoom “to organize ourselves more and prepare for all our meetings”.

The region “held an online meeting for the first time in its history and made strong strides with regard to the next regional coordinator. The use of technology to progress ongoing activities was widely embraced by the members”, said Hakim Mufumbiro, Uganda.

Dominique Lantomalala, Madagascar, voiced the views of many participants. "This was an excellent initiative to keep in touch, to discuss ongoing work and the possibility of continuing. The interpretation was excellent. Thanks to the coordinator", she said. 

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