A virtual centre of excellence that aims to help pharmacy schools in Africa increase the number of regionally-trained pharmacists has been launched at the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s (FIP) World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, held in Bangkok between 31 August and 4 September 2014.
The Centre of Excellence for Africa, set up by FIP and UNESCO-UNITWIN (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization University Twinning and Networking Programme), has five major areas of activity: capability, innovation, clinical training, communication and quality. The centre is an online network that encourages input from pharmacy schools. This far-reaching set-up will facilitate wider involvement than a physical centre would, Jennifer Marriott, director of the FIP UNESCO-UNITWIN collaboration, explained. “The formation of the African centre of excellence has great potential to advance pharmacy education in the region,” says Marriott. “One of the functions of the centre is to develop an expertise map to facilitate staff exchange between schools in the region.”
Pharmacy schools can also access free resources contributed by international universities to support educational activities. The materials are accessible via saber.monash.edu and include a pharmacy simulator, which allows students to practise dispensing, and an online pharmaceutical manufacturing plant.
Africa has the fewest pharmacists per capita in the world. The FIP Education Initiative’s 2013 global education report indicated that its countries have lower educational capacity and supply pipelines for pharmacists than elsewhere and of the 20 countries with the lowest number of pharmacy graduates per capita, 16 were African.
“Centre of excellence tools, especially for practical demonstrations in situations lacking such facilities, would be of benefit,” says Lungwani Muungo, founding head of the pharmacy department at the University of Zambia and current dean of the School of Pharmacy, Nutrition and Dietetics at Lusaka Apex Medical University. “An online tableting plant would be of great learning value.”
Further virtual centres are planned for other regions.