Jonathan Eze and Chris Uba
Heads of Government across Africa have expressed support for a new health platform tagged: ‘African Business Coalition for Health (ABC Health),’ a joint initiative of the Aliko Dangote Foundation; GBCHealth, and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), which was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The ABC Health platform is a 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, with assurances from government to collaborate for healthier Africans.
It 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.
According to a statement, The platform has the objective of driving business leadership, strengthening partnerships, and facilitating investments to change the face of healthcare in Africa.
Taking place on the sidelines of the just concluded 32nd African Union Summit, 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 was 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, the Chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who was represented by the Foundation’s Executive Director, Halima Aliko-Dangote, said Africa Business Health Forum would identify issues and solutions to Africa’s health challenges with a view to mobilising the will to confront it headlong.
He said it was a well-known fact that there was 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.
angote 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 was 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, Dangote informed his audience that, in keeping with his passion to see healthier African people and a better continent, he has proposed and charged business leaders to commit at least one per cent of their profit after tax to support the health sector.
In his own remark, the co-chair of the GBCHealth, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, said while Africa had 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 was constrained by scarce public funding and limited donor support, and that the out of pocket expenditure accounts for 36 per cent 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.
Imoukhuede, said it was clear that African governments alone cannot solve this challenge, which was further exacerbated by the continent’s growing population and Africa’s changing disease portfolio. Therefore, there was no alternative but to turn to the private sector to complement government funding, he added.
The Executive Secretary of the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Vera Songwe, expressed regret that Africa with over 50 countries was struggling to combat her healthcare challenges but that organisations such as being launched offer a veritable perspective from the private sector to the solutions to Africa’s health care problems.
She said about $17.3 billion worth of drugs were imported into African Continent and that if Africa could 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 turns to explain what their administrations have been doing to improve health care delivery services in their respective countries.
They all endorsed the establishment of the 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.