"The WHO is," says Oyewale Tomori, "well, I know the W stands for World, but sometimes I think it stands for White."

Tomori is a virologist at Redeemer's University and the past president of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences. I had asked whether he was surprised that high-income countries were buying up monkeypox vaccine supplies and WHO was sharing its vaccines with 30 non-African countries, leaving the continent without access.

"Are you surprised when the sun rises every morning?" Tomori retorts.

He tries not to get too upset about global health inequities because he thinks they're inevitable. The real issue, he says, is that African countries rely too much on the West — which is not exactly a formula for success. For one, Tomori says, Western aid always comes too little, too late. But more important, he stresses, "your help is not helping us. It's making us more dependent."

Fed up with their countries' inadequate responses to Ebola, COVID-19 and now monkeypox, a growing movement of African scientists is advocating for improved biosecurity on the continent – that is, protection against pathogens.

To better understand their grassroots effort, I spoke with Tomori; Jean-Vivien Mombouli, director of research and production at the Congolese National Public Health Laboratory; and Christian Happi, director of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Nigeria. I wanted to learn, more specifically, what they think Africa should be doing to contain infectious diseases. They offered three key ideas: developing community-based disease surveillance; building capacity to produce protective gear, vaccines, and other pandemic-busting tools; and investing more in health-care workers.

The elephant in the room is whether achieving all this is even possible since African public health systems have long been underfunded. As one example, African Union member states pledged to spend 15% of their national budgets on health in the 2001 Abuja Declaration. Two decades later, that's happened in only five countries: Ethiopia, Gambia, Malawi, Rwanda and South Africa.

Nonetheless, Tomori rejects the notion that Western philanthropy is the answer. "Don't buy the story that Africa is poor," he says. "We're not poor; it is that we're not making good use of what we have."

But change is possible. And in fact, it's already begun.

Read the full article about better solutions for Africa by Simar Bajaj at NPR.