Putting mental health in Africa on the global health agenda

Thursday, 7 November 2019
The Royal African Society and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Putting mental health in Africa on the global health agenda:
The Royal African Society and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine host landmark conference at the Wellcome – London, 20 November 2019

London, Thursday 7 November 2019

The Royal African Society and the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have joined forces with the Wellcome and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to present a landmark conference in London, highlighting the latest mental healthcare innovations from Africa and making the case for increased investment in the sector.

Mental health has historically been neglected on public health and development policy agendas, but over the last decade, interest and opinions have shifted globally and on the African continent. Many African countries have now adopted national mental health policies, and local mental health actors are developing innovative solutions, which have much to offer the rest of the world. Nevertheless, there is still a major investment gap that must be addressed.

Dr Florence Baingana, Consultant in WHO’s Regional Office for Africa and one of the conference’s key speakers, said: Investing in mental health is crucial for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Evidence shows that improved mental health provision can have significant benefits for social and economic development. For every dollar invested in care for depression and anxiety, there is a $3-5 return on economic and health benefits.”

Embracing the principle of Universal Health Coverage and using the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 as a framework, this conference will bring together African and global mental health leaders, innovators, researchers, policy-makers, private sector representatives and interested members of the African diaspora to develop a set of key priorities for Africa, with a view to strengthening the continental and international response. The priorities will then be discussed at a high-level roundtable the next day, with participants including donors, government officials, and senior representatives of regional bodies and INGOs working on mental health in Africa.

In a linked conference taking place in Burkina Faso on 5-6 November, the West African Health Organisation and CBM International are bringing together West African leaders to discuss regional strategies, needs and opportunities. The findings of this conference will feed into the London conference, adding the perspective of Francophone and Lusophone priorities to the discussion.

Zeinab Badawi, Chair of the Royal African Society, said: “As more focus is being put on mental health globally, we hope these conferences will play a role in ensuring that mental health in Africa is prioritised as a public health area, promoting wellbeing and contributing to the continent’s wider development aspirations.”

To access the conference programme, logos and publicity materials, visit: bit.ly/MHinAfrica2019Press

For interview requests, press accreditation and further information, please contact Nouria Bah, Marketing & PR Consultant, on ras_communications@soas.ac.uk


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Notes to Editors


  1. The Royal African Society is a membership organisation that provides opportunities for people to connect, celebrate and engage critically with a wide range of topics and ideas about Africa today. Through our events, publications and digital channels we share insight, instigate debate and facilitate mutual understanding between the UK and Africa. We amplify African voices and interests in academia, business, politics, the arts and education, reaching a network of more than one million people globally.


  1. The Centre for Global Mental Health is a collaboration between LSHTM and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. This year the Centre is celebrating its 10th anniversary. In that time, CGMH has been at the forefront of research and thought leadership in the field of global mental health, guiding policy and practice in many countries, and in the development and research sectors. The Centre’s research includes work with an extensive African network, including partners in over 15 African countries.


  1. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is a world-leading centre for research, postgraduate studies and continuing education in public and global health. LSHTM has a strong international presence with 3,000 staff and 4,000 students working in the UK and countries around the world, and an annual research income of £140 million. LSHTM is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, is partnered with two MRC University Units in The Gambia and Uganda, and was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2016. This year marks the Schools 120th year anniversary in their mission to improve health for all and to work together with the global health community to challenge the status quo by applying new, groundbreaking ideas and tools that create new possibilities and enable them to better reach those in need.


  1. Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation.


  1. African mental health leaders, health experts and innovators taking part in the conference include:  
  • Dr Florence Baingana, Consultant, Non-communicable Diseases Cluster, WHO Africa Regional Office.
  • Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa.
  • Prof Olayinka Omigbodun, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Ibadan. 
  • Prof Stanley Okolo, Secretary General, West Africa Health Organisation.
  • Dr Mohammed Abdulaziz, Principal Medical Epidemiologist, African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention.
  • Prof Abiodun Adewuya, Professor of Public Mental Health, Lagos State University
  • Prof Eugene Kinyanda, Head of Mental Health Project, MRC/UVRI & LSHTM Uganda Research Unit.
  • Prof Arouna Ouedraogo, Professor of Psychiatry, Francophone Mental Health Association.
  • Prof Crick Lund, Professor of Global Mental Health and Development, University of Cape Town and King’s College London.
  • Dr Victoria Mutiso, Principal Investigator, Africa Mental Health Foundation, Kenya.
  • Dr Victor Ugo, Founder, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative & Senior Campaign Officer, United for Global Mental Health.
  • Grace Gatera, Young Leader, The Lancet Commission on Mental Health and Sustainable Development.
  • Michael Njenga, Executive Director, Users and Survivors of Psychiatry Kenya.
  • Ephiphania Munetsi, Project Coordinator, Friendship Bench, Zimbabwe.
  • Joshua Duncan, Programmes Manager, Mental Health Coalition of Sierra Leone.
  • Tshepo Desmond Chauke, Youth Mentor, Project Khuluma, South Africa.
  • Phillip Ode, Programme Officer, CBM Nigeria.
  1. This conference has been supported by the Wellcome Trust, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Comic Relief, CBM International, and the SHM Foundation.