By Dipo Olowookere
An ambitious platform designed to bring together business leaders in Africa to collaborate with heads of government and other stakeholders to tackle basic health challenges in Africa has been launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with assurances from government to collaborate for a healthier Africans.
The platform, African Business Coalition for Health (ABC Health) was launched with commitments by all partners and stakeholders to put efforts together to improve basic health care services in the continent during the inaugural Africa Business: Health Forum 2019, which witnessed the launch of the official logo of the ABC Health.
The ABC Health is a joint initiative of Aliko Dangote Foundation; GBCHealth, and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), with the objective of driving business leadership, strengthening partnerships, and facilitating investments to change the face of healthcare in Africa.
Taking place on the margins of the 32nd African Union Summit Heads of Governments and Business Community leaders across Africa, the forum examined opportunities to accelerate economic development and growth of the continent through a healthcare reform agenda that focuses on the wellbeing of employees for a more active and productive workforce.
The forum is expected to unify Africa’s key decision makers in exploring opportunities for catalysing growth in the continent’s economy, through business partnerships to invest in the health sector.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation, Mr Aliko Dangote, who was represented by the Foundation’s Executive Director, Ms Halima Aliko-Dangote, said Africa Business Health Forum would identify issues and solutions to Africa’s health challenges with a view to mobilizing the will to confront it headlong.
He said it is a well-known fact that there is a vital relationship between health and economic growth and development in Africa as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more. Access to essential health services is an important aspect of development.
Mr Dangote stated that “Governments from both developed and developing countries are increasingly looking at public-private partnerships (PPPs) as a way to expand access to higher-quality health services by leveraging capital, managerial capacity, and know-how from the private sector.”
According to him, “Africa’s healthcare systems demand significant investments to meet the needs of their growing populations, changing patterns of diseases and the internationally-agreed development goals.
He said as a businessman, and through Aliko Dangote foundation, he is committed to working with governments and key stakeholders for the development of impactful health initiatives in Africa in the belief that private sector leaders have a strong role to play.
Back in his home country, Mr Dangote informed his audience that in keeping with his passion to see a healthier African people and better continent he has proposed and charged business leaders to commit at least one percent of their profit after tax to support the health sector.
In his own remark, the Co-Chair of the GBCHealth, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, said while Africa has made significant progress in the funding of healthcare, “we are still very far from where we need to be to achieve SDG Goal 3,”
He lamented that the healthcare in Africa is constrained by scarce public funding and limited donor support, and that the out of pocket expenditure accounts for 36 percent of Africa’s total healthcare spend pointing out that given the income levels in Africa, it is no surprise that healthcare spend in Africa is grossly inadequate to meet Africa’s needs leading to a financing gap of N66 billion per annum.
Mr Imhokuede said it was clear that African government alone cannot solve this challenge, which is further exacerbated by our growing population and Africa’s changing disease portfolio. Therefore there is no alternative but to turn to the private sector to complement government funding.
Said he, “Our continent accounts for less than 2 percent of global health even though our very fertile people account for 16 percent of global population and carry 26 percent of the global disease burden. By 2050 Africans will account for more than 50 percent of global population growth much of that coming from my country Nigeria, a great opportunity and at the same time a ticking time bomb should we fail our health systems quickly.
“That is why we have gathered here in Addis Ababa today to see how together we can fix health in Africa. The private sector and the public sector working together as partners have the potential to change Africa’s healthcare from doom and gloom to progress and results. Africa’s private sector has great capacity to be relevant partners.
“The private sector must be encouraged to optimize and step up its involvement and contribution to health funding in Africa. We have seen what global private sector players accomplished in the fight against the AIDS epidemic through powerful coalitions such as GBCHealth. This is an indication of the power of consolidated effort which Africa’s growing private sector can bring to solving our health challenges.”
“African leaders now have a stronger sense of urgency to combat the lack of quality health care that Africans endure. The inequality of healthcare available to Africans compared to people in other parts of the globe is vast and unacceptably pervasive. With the cooperation of both the public and private sectors, there is a huge potential to boost health outcomes with significant financial gains,” said Mr Aig-Imoukhuede.
The Executive Secretary of the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Vera Songwe regretted that that Africa with over 50 countries is struggling to combat her healthcare challenges but that organizations such as being launch offer a veritable perspective from the private sector to the solutions to Africa’s health care problems.
She said about $17.3 worth of drugs are imported into African Continent and that if Africa can manufacture those drugs, then that would be 17.3 billion worth of jobs created.
However, to attract the participation of African private sector, there is the need to create enabling environment. “To the private sector, our leaders are expecting you to invest in healthcare because you will get higher returns than you can get anywhere else.”
According to her, a healthier Africa would be a happy Africa and a happy Africa will be a productive Africa.
One after another, the three African heads of governments, namely President of Republic of Djibouti, Omar Gilles; the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed; and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi took turn to explain what their administrations have been doing to improve health care delivery services in their respective countries.
They also gave lack of adequate funding as part of the problems militating against achieving their administrations’ plan to provide sound health care services just as other African countries.
They all endorsed the establishment of Africa Business Coalition for Health and concluded that it would provide opportunities to accelerate economic development and growth of the continent through a healthcare reform agenda that focuses on the wellbeing of employees for a more active and productive workforce.
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