Scaling up Nigeria’s Healthcare Infrastructure and Unlocking Market Potential

11 May 2014

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 Alhaji Aliko Dangote

As the World Economic Forum on Africa ended last Friday, Paul Obi writes that Nigerian healthcare system attracted some benefits from the forum

Efforts to reshape Nigeria’s  healthcare sector, by placing premium on the contribution of the private sector, received a boost at the just-concluded World Economic Forum on Africa. 

The boost to many stakeholders is a declaration that seeks to prioritise the role of the private sector in healthcare service delivery. Though there were on-going efforts with the interventions of President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Tony Elumelu Foundation; Former Zenith Bank Managing Director, Jim Ovia, among others to step up healthcare delivery, the WEF event brought the private sector commitment to the front burner.

At the side meetings organised by the Private Sector Health Alliance (PSHA) championed by Dangote, Ovia, former Minister of State for Health, Prof. Muhammed Ali Pate,  streamlining the health sector through scaling up innovation, improved maternal-child healthcare and unlocking the local market potentials received more attention.

Dangote who is spearheading the initiative said the funds will be deployed “to kick off the implementation of Saving One Million Lives initiative in Nigeria and to ensure that we meet our collective goals, including meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015,” he said.

The meeting under the caption: ‘Health Agenda for the Private Sector Joint Advocacy and Commitment Declaration’ brought together key players across the globe to show commitment on how the private sector can create the synergy needed to revamp Nigeria’s health sector.

According to the organisers, the move was to build coalition that provides the roadmap in driving the goals of scaling up healthcare and ensuring that Nigeria meets health-related MDGs.
Dangote, further told the gathering that Nigeria “needs about $56.5 million over the next two years in meeting health-related MDGs, starting with 14 pilots states selected for the programme.”

He observed that PSHA would lead in providing the basics upon which the private sector can make health affordable, thrive and restrategise the nation’s comatose health indexes.
He submitted that the initiative was aimed at “making a declaration to meet the MDGs though advocacy and tap into health market potentials” in the country.

Pate likewise observed that the Saving One Million Live initiative will bring about teamwork, with the private sector working harmoniously with government to demonstrate commitment to saving the lives of Nigerians, including developing a mechanism for   sustainable healthcare service delivery.

To demonstrate government’s commitment to PPP, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, commended the efforts of the private sector, specifically, PSHA in their intervention to boost healthcare system for optimum results.

Chukwu highlighted  the fact that donors’ commitment would bring about new economic growth not just in the health sector but across device spectrum of the economy. He added that “their balance sheets will continue to improve,” while the government will continue to create the enabling environment for PPP to be consolidated in the management of Nigeria’s healthcare system.  This, he explained, would be achievable through discreet policy implementation, coordination of programmes and tracking of results.

To achieve these objectives, Chukwu told the gathering that there was  the need for the private sector to strengthen its support base in ensuring that the National Health bill is passed, and the full implementation of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Managing Director of PSHA, Dr Muntaqa Uwar-Sadiq, said the initiative had the potentials to strengthen Nigeria’s health sector through, “scaling up promising health innovations in the health marketplace, investing in the health sector to enable them achieve the scaling up of improved healthcare and contribute to economic growth,” adding that; it would further ‘facilitate investments, unlock new local markets as well as shape new investment in underserved segments of the health value chain.”

Also, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Ado Muhammad, said the approach of the private sector in the health sector had started yielding positive results with the reduction of vaccine preventable diseases. He gave examples of the increase in immunisation of children and cut down in the spread of polio as practical examples of benefits in which the public private partnership (PPP) will reshape the nation’s healthcare.

The forum also afforded state governments to bring to the fore challenges and anticipated obstacles likely to befall PPP in the states. That notwithstanding,  Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, who spoke on the behalf of the governors assured the gathering on state governments’ commitment to accelerate private sector intervention in the health sector. Wada also called for a more robust approach and  collective efforts that would create a unified policy in tackling health challenges in the country.

Former First Lady of Kwara State and Founder of Wellbeing Foundation, Mrs Toyin Saraki; UNICEF Country Director, Ms Jean Gough; officials from the World Bank, its private sector arm, International Finance Corporation (IFC), USAID, General Electric (GE), Pharmaccess, KPMG all made presentations.

As a follow-up, General Electrics (GE) and USAID Friday on the last day of the forum pledged to support Nigeria with additional $20 million.

The funds would assist in innovation, healthcare infrastructure and maternal-child health system. With government taking a lead in promoting PPP, there are indications that better days lie ahead for Nigeria healthcare system. Chukwu and the private sector led by Dangote deserve commendation for venturing into an industry that is seen first as charity rather than business.

But there is also the need to go beyond paper. Dangote made this clear when he urged participants to focus more on action and less talk. The way to begin with the PPP in health is not to rush and bring in the dynamics of market forces. Efforts should be made to ensure that accessibility, affordability and technology remain the cardinal points in any initiative.

The new roadmap for sustainable healthcare service delivery should be the one that takes into account the vulnerables, low income earners and the fact that Nigeria is still confronting a chain of epidemics. That is the way to go. As the forum ended, it is time to prove that healthcare was and is the highest beneficiary. 

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, Business, Aliko Dangote

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