Black Academy makes visible the actions of African doctors not revealed to the world

The story of the evolution of medicine has always been told through the prism of the advances and contributions of Western physicians: European, Asian and American alike. However, there is a part of medical history that is often neglected and little-known: that of African doctors and their works, which have been unjustly obscured and hidden. Dr. Trésor Mabanza reveals these facts at the DJOUHOUL (meaning chat in the Bassa’a language of Cameroon) hybrid conference held on May 24, 2023 and organized by MeineWelt and its partners including the Goethe Institut, the City of Mannheim and the Kirchliche Arbeitsstelle Südliches Afrika as part of the Black Academy initiative. The conference took place in N1, Room 52/53 of the City Hall, 68161 Mannheim and online via Zoom Meeting from 18 :30-20:30 with 84 participants from Africa (Benin, Cameroon,Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Congo, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Kenya, Togo, South Africa, ); Europe (United Kingdom,Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland) and America (American Samoa).

Dr. Trésor Mabanza sharing his experiences with participants

Thanks to their traditions and the medical knowledge they possessed, pre-colonial African peoples were able to nourish the continent with invaluable medical knowledge and wealth, passed down from generation to generation. Using only plants and science based on the benefits of nature, traditional African medicine was able to cure all types of illness. With the evolution of science and modernization, many young people have turned to modern medicine.

Indeed, despite their invisibility, many African doctors continue to demonstrate their expertise and commitment by bringing significant medical innovations, improving healthcare systems and training the next generation of healthcare professionals. They therefore play a crucial role, bringing their expertise and experience to bear on the health challenges facing the continent. Their contribution has been essential in improving health systems, strengthening medical infrastructures and promoting favorable health policies. Among these heroes and heroines of African medicine is Dr. Nsangou Mouhamadou Bachirou, a young doctor from Cameroon, whose research work led to the invention of VeninSerin, a remedy for snakebite in Africa.

View of some participants at the Djouhoul conference

But, despite their expertise and skills, their commitment and the good results their work yields, African doctors go unrecognized, and worse, their results are stolen and attributed to the powers of the Global North who claim to be committed to the fight for a healthy Africa. Dr.  Trésor Mabanza, a surgeon by training, who actively participated in the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa, specifically in Liberia, Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone, is a case in point. For years, he sacrificed his energy and drew on his knowledge and know-how to find strategies, methods and remedies to halt the spread of the virus on the continent. His research efforts led to a better understanding of this endemic disease, the development of treatments adapted to the populations affected, and improved strategies for preventing and controlling the virus. Unfortunately, when it came time to give him credit after the virus had been eradicated, he discovered that the teams from the Global North who had come to the field had proclaimed themselves heroes. One question immediately springs to mind: what is it like for African doctors working abroad? 

According to official sources from the German Federal Government, there are 32,000 foreign doctors in Germany from countries outside the European Union, 10% of them from Africa. In the face of racism and the difficulties of integrating and adapting to new treatment tools, our heroes and heroines are fighting to promote our continent beyond its borders. Many of them devote their bodies and souls to preserving the lives of their patients, even if their efforts go unrecognized.  Their skills are recognized by all, but not given the recognition they deserve.

Still, Africans can firmly believe that things will change in a few years’ time. The wonders of our African doctors will not long remain buried in the world of oblivion. As Dr. Trésor Mabanza says, only hard work and faith can reveal us to the world.

by Abdoul Boukari and Amour Agon