African Chapter President's Column - December 2021
Covid-19 has hit us hard again — this time through the new Omicron variant that has begun spreading across the world. The variant was first discovered in South Africa a few weeks ago and in an effort to stop its transmission, countries have moved swiftly to reimpose travel restrictions. This has largely impacted any further logistical preparations for the long-awaited first Aquaculture Africa Conference (AFRAQ21). We have therefore decided to, once again, reschedule the event to 25-28 March 2022. This was a very painful decision considering all the great efforts, speed, dedication and anticipation by the organizing team over the past few months and weeks — all geared to get the conference going as scheduled on 11-14 December 2021.
The rescheduling of AFRAQ21 to March 2022 was to the best interest of all, given the dire situation already experienced in some countries in Africa and Europe, and the expected global travel bans in weeks to come as the “fourth wave” takes its grip on many countries. We pray the situation will have improved by March 2022 to warrant us to go ahead with the conference safely. It is also our hope that the rescheduling will provide us with ample time to prepare intensively and hopefully have an even more expanded event. We anticipate those from some African countries who had reported difficulties in accessing travel visas to have the opportunity to reapply. And those who were in process of soliciting sponsorship support will have additional time to negotiate with sponsors. We still invite new registrants, exhibitors and sponsors.
As we entered the home stretch for our preparations for AFRAQ21, what I profoundly observed was the interest generated by the African and international aquaculture communities to support the event. Towards the end of November, registrations had reached nearly 500, new exhibitors were coming on board, several aquaculture support organizations, development partners and projects were committed to sponsoring the event, including sending a number of their participants to attend. The convention centre, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, had given us the green light to increase capacity (of course, with covid-19 safety protocols in place). I believe we were geared up for a successful event after all! Nonetheless, we are anticipating that the same spirit and commitment will be felt in March 2022 as we foresee most registrants, exhibitors, partners and sponsors coming back and in increased numbers.
This season, the African Chapter concluded elections for Board of Directors for the term 2022-2023. I wish to thank the elections committee at large, led by the President-Elect, Dr. John Walakira for leading this process with advisory support from Dr. Kevan Main, and the WAS Home Office. Five positions were up for election this year: President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Regional Director (Central Africa) and Regional Director (Southern Africa). I will be announcing the elected officials in my end-of-year message in few weeks’ time, as well as in the next column. We are just waiting for them to get ratified. Watch this space!
Lastly, I urge all WAS members and prospective AFRAQ21 attendees to get vaccinated against Covid-19. This is critical as from 1 January 2022, the Egyptian government will be allowing only vaccinated people in its public spaces. I reiterate, make sure you don’t forget to block the dates of 25-28 March 2022 to come to Alexandria City, Egypt where I hope to meet many of you for the AFRAQ21 Conference we have long waited for!
Let’s all stay safe and be blessed as we weather through this forth covid-19 wave!
— Sherif Sadek, President