At last year’s global forum for progressing tobacco control, Daouda Adam was nominated by his peers to represent the interests and concerns of the Africa region. Preventing tobacco industry interference was the key issue he presented, on behalf of the 30 African nations that attended the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties [COP 7] for the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC].
Invited to join his home country’s official delegation, Adam became the government of Chad’s sole representative at COP 7, after visa issues prevented his fellow delegates from attending. Adam has supported the Chadian government over the last decade in his role as The Union’s technical advisor for tobacco control in Francophone Africa.
‘Delegates from other African countries were surprised that a non-governmental organisation was representing Chad. But this unique situation soon opened up conversations that developed positively, to the extent that I was asked to represent the region and take the floor during international discussions. It was a great honour and enabled me to advocate on some of Africa’s most pressing concerns, grounding these arguments in the technical expertise The Union is renowned for.’
Since joining The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control in 2010, Adam has worked in nine countries across the region, with a focus on francophone nations. Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger and Uganda (which is English-speaking) are all on his beat.
‘When I began this work I found The Union already had a good reputation for its innovative work on tuberculosis in the region. This made governments receptive to working with us on tobacco control. I provide technical advice and assistance to governments and NGOs across the region on the best way to implement the WHO FCTC. Capacity-building and training are also a core part of my work, to ensure that national tobacco control programmes can become sustainable.’
Unlike many tobacco control professionals, Adam’s background is neither medicine, nor public health. After gaining a degree in business and finance, studied at the Pantheon-Sorbonne in Paris for his Masters in Business Administration. Upon completion he joined the Chadian Consumer Rights Association where he advocated for improved quality of products and services. Public health issues featured in his work from time to time. But it was not until he began work on cigarette packaging in 1999 that he first became interested in tobacco control.
‘At that time there was no health information on tobacco packaging at all. From a consumer’s point of view this was unacceptable. We were surprised, and began the uphill battle to change the situation.’
As part of his ongoing research into consumer rights and tobacco, he attended the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Chicago, where he met Mirta Molinari, Director of The Union’s Mexico office, and tobacco control lead for the region. Soon after, Adam joined The Union.
‘Because I have a background in business and finance, as well as a decade of experience in tobacco control, it enables me to speak with policymakers about the many harms of tobacco use, and to engage even those without any specific interest in public health. This is increasingly important as we begin to tackle the tobacco industry on new frontiers. A whole-of-government approach is needed if we are to successfully address tax, illicit trade, trade treaties and agriculture.’
Adam said much has been achieved in Francophone Africa despite limited resources. Because smoking rates are still comparatively low in the region when taken in a global context, it is not prioritised for funding. But Africa is of considerable interest to the tobacco industry, with many countries offering untapped and youthful markets, relatively weak tobacco control laws as well as prime land for tobacco growing. Now because of The Union’s leadership on tobacco control in the region, governments and NGOs are proactively seeking to establish partnerships to develop their tobacco control programmes.
‘We have seen comprehensive laws to reduce tobacco use in several African countries in recent years. For example Chad now has graphic health warnings that cover 70 percent of the surface area of tobacco packaging, and a ban on all tobacco advertising. Chad, Niger and Uganda are blazing the trail. And others are on the cusp of following suit. But the international community must wake up and see that Africa will be the next battle ground for tobacco. We must galvanise advocates and policymakers now.’
‘In 2018, Africa will for the first time host the World Conference on Tobacco or Health. We must mobilise now to make this moment in Cape Town the turning point for reducing tobacco use in Africa.’