May I ask you to introduce yourself by telling us a little about your personal background (education, professional experience) and when, how and why you got involved in tobacco control?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: I am Olanrewaju Onigbogi. I have a medical background with postgraduate training in public health. I am currently the Director of the African Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI). I worked as a researcher and public health physician at the University College Hospital before I was appointed as ATCRI Director. The initiative is a multilateral effort to stem the emerging tobacco epidemic on the continent.
hosted by the Environmental Rights Action and the Nigerian Tobacco Control
Alliance and supported by the American Cancer Society and Cancer Research
UK, two NGOs that have extensive experience in tobacco control efforts
the world over.
Q1. ATCRI, the Africa Tobacco
Control Regional Initiative was officially launched during the COP3 Conference in Durban. Financial Resources have often been very
scarce for African advocates (still are for many) so can you tell us
about your budget for this new program co-funded by the ACS and Cancer
Research UK- and how the monies are going to be spent?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: ATCRI will be active in the core area of training and capacity building for organisations committed to tobacco control work in Sub-Saharan Africa. We will also work extensively in facilitating the dissemination of tobacco control knowledge and sharing of such knowledge within the tobacco control community. We would be conducting our first advocacy-oriented training for the English-speaking advocates in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The goal is to increase the depth of their knowledge and make them better equipped to bring about change in their countries. This will be followed immediately by the Francophone- Africa advocacy training in conjunction with OTAF in Niger Republic.
We also hope to give seed grants for specific work in-country to advocates and researchers that we have identified as showing some promise. All these will be going on along with our information and knowledge sharing activities by virtue of our website.
We also hope to start a training program in tobacco control both by bulk mail and on-line. We got a seed grant of about $130K from our major funders but are still in the process of negotiating more funding.
Q2. While I am biased in favor of an extensive use of the new technologies I still hear many African advocates complaining that they don't have an easy and permanent access to a computer and/or a high speed internet connexion: this situation is very detrimental to their effectiveness. Does ATCRI intend to contribute to improve this situation and how would you consider doing it?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: We really do hope to make our website, a true one-stop-shop for all people involved in tobacco control in the region.
Despite the obvious problems that many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have with the use of the internet, we still believe that Africa cannot afford to be left permanently behind in the internet age. Therefore, we will continue to encourage all tobacco control advocates and researchers to visit our website: www.atcri.org.
The website has been specifically designed
to ensure that countries with a low speed internet connection can still
access basic materials that will improve the quality of their work.
We will also be making special arrangements for bulk mailing to advocates
that have a problem with downloading the heavier materials and have
demonstrated a need for such materials in achieving their objectives.
Q3. ATCRI states an interest to "disseminate information to African journalists". From discussing with several journalists attending COP3 thanks to an invitation by the FCA I heard of a project to create a Consortium of African Journalists specializing in tobacco control that would help the NGOs communicate and provide good content to the media. Would ATCRI be supportive of such an initiative?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: Having a viable African Journalists
network is indeed invaluable for the overall success of tobacco control
activities in the sub-continent. I am aware of the efforts of the FCA
in this regard. We will be most pleased to work with the FCA in achieving
this objective which we both share.
Q4. We see many powerful women leaders among tobacco control advocates but women are still under-represented in many others. Is ATCRI concerned with this gender gap and how do you eventually intend to address this problem?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: ATCRI comprises our consultants,
our board and our staff which was constituted with the view of having
a gender balance. We will continue to encourage more female advocate
involvement in our activities by giving them selection priority for
activities that they have demonstrated competence.
Q5. We can be satisfied by the number of new support for tobacco control in Africa: Bloomberg, Gates, ATCRI, a few others. But how coordinated are those efforts? Of course each entity expresses its strongly felt support for coordination while at the same time lamenting there is very little. What solutions do you see for improving the coordination and the flow of information between the different organizations that share the common goal of promoting tobacco control in Africa? How transparent can/should they be?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: I must agree that there are still communication gaps among funders
of tobacco control efforts on the continent. However, we must acknowledge
recent efforts at reducing this gap and hope that the current trend
of increased communication will continue. I also believe that funders
should be transparent and have more round table meetings about what
advocate or researcher they have on their bill and for what purpose
so that efforts will not be duplicated.
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Olanrewaju (Lanre) Onigboji: I thank you most sincerely for the opportunity and commend your efforts in disseminating tobacco control related information. We will be most pleased to work with you in other capacities in the near future.
Thank you Lanre for taking the time to answer our questions.