Each year around the world, it is estimated that 300,000 neonates are born with a neural tube defect. Many countries, however, are still lacking comprehensive birth defects surveillance registries. Comprehensive birth defects surveillance systems can help countries understand the magnitude and distribution of the problem. These systems can also provide information about biological, contextual, social and environmental determinants of birth defects. This information in turn can be used to identify effective and implementable solutions, and to evaluate prevention and management strategies to improve quality performance. This paper summarizes the development and implementation of an online pre-course training and in-person surveillance workshop conducted between 2014 December and 2015 March for representatives from six African countries. Feedback given by participants provided valuable lessons learned that can be applied to subsequent trainings and workshops.