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GBCHealth, Dangote Foundation and UNECA seek private sector involvement to improve Africa’s Health and Economic Growth

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Vera Songwe

GBCHealth, the Aliko Dangote Foundation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) released preliminary findings last Thursday from their forthcoming “Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa” report, calling for greater African private sector involvement and investment in healthcare. The preliminary report finds that neither government nor existing public-private partnerships are effective enough, and that existing PPPs disproportionately focus on a small number of countries. The preliminary report recommends a new model, one in which PPPs prioritize around the most significant disease burden and broaden their scope to benefit the health of the whole continent, which is deemed critical to driving long-term economic growth in Africa.

“The dialogue was a much-needed call-to-action for the African private sector as evidenced by the research,” said Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group & Chairman, Aliko Dangote Foundation. “The best way to move Africa forward is for businesses to step up in health care and take bold action. We must work together, across industries and with governments and communities, to foster innovation and to drive more strategic investments that benefit us collectively.”

GBCHealth, the Aliko Dangote Foundation and the ECA also gathered African heads of state, corporate CEOs, and heads of UN agencies on Thursday, September 27, at the United Nations headquarters for a high-level dialogue to discuss the findings and reinforce the importance of greater African private sector involvement and investment in healthcare. The dialogue, moderated by journalist Isha Sesay, featured lively discussions from champions for multisector health partnerships in Africa. The discussions explored findings of ECA’s research, Africa’s health status, SDG’s, public-private partnerships, health systems strengthening and health financing.

Following opening remarks from Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Founder and Chair, African Initiative for Governance and Co -Chair, GBCHealth, during which he recognized the group’s collective goal to identify solutions for health and finance in Africa, H.E. Faure Gnassingbé, President, Togolese Republic, spoke about the healthcare situation in his country and the government’s approach to public-private partnerships.

“In Togo, we passed on the responsibility of certain facilities, namely clinics, pharmacies and hospices, to specific private entities who manage them,” said Gnassingbé. “We’re proud to say that public facilities are as efficient as private facilities, so we have gone on to create another category of facilities that are semi-private, semi-public. We hope that, with this initiative, we’ll be able to reach another level of efficiency.”

Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Board Member, GBCHealth, spoke about the need to be creative in terms of stretching private sector capital for advancing health and economic growth. “I’m very concerned as we sit here today, but heartened by the title of this dialogue, called Africa’s Health & Finance,” he said during the discussion. “I don’t think going forward that we can separate health from finance.”

Halima Dangote, Executive Director of Dangote Industries Limited, delivered remarks on her father’s behalf. In them, he discussed his motivation as a businessman and human being for improving the wellbeing and quality of life for people in Africa. He addressed the private sector’s unique capacity to mobilize its resources and innovation to strengthen health systems and save lives, and he called on continued and enhanced leadership from businesses on the issue. He also highlighted the importance of the new ABCHealth platform to help strategically mobilize private sector resources, expertise and innovation to strengthen health systems and save lives across the continent.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, also joined the discussion. She spoke about the importance of unlocking and leveraging the tools the private sector has to deliver healthcare services through sustainable finance.

“Much of education and much of health is not in a bad place, it’s in crisis,” said Mohammed. “People are faced with choiceless choices, for instance, having to choose health or water. We need solid institutions to be able to deliver services.”

Other leaders, all of whom brought unique perspective from their experiences in African governments, NGOs and the private sector, each highlighted the importance of financing healthcare and promoting collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to find sustainable solutions.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Republic of Nigeria noted that there is a saying that Health is Wealth but that the saying is inadequate because ‘health is everything including wealth.

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of Namibia noted that a country can’t industrialize without a healthy society and that we must stop looking at healthcare as a charitable cause, but as a profitable business that should be encouraged.

Patrick Khulekani Dlamini, CEO and Managing Director, Development Bank of Southern Africa talked about the evolution of 2G to to 3G and now 4G on the continent saying that it is in Africa’s hand and reach to leverage technology to leapfrog some of its healthcare needs

The session, titled “Africa’s Health and Financing: Pathways to Economic Growth and Prosperity,” will inform revisions to the report ahead of its launch at the Africa Business: Health Forum in February 2019. Preliminary findings are summarized below and are available here.

“African businesses and governments are realizing that investing in Africa’s health is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business and for government,” said Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Founder and Chair, African Initiative for Governance and Co -Chair, GBCHealth. “If we’re able to galvanize a new era of cooperation and improve the overall well-being of this young, fast-growing continent, we’ll create economic growth for all Africans.”

“Africa’s population bulge and its abundance of young people is a competitive asset,” said Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, UNECA. “This asset, however, must not become a fiscal burden by crowding in private finance to sustainably share the cost of a healthy Africa.”


Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa: Preliminary Findings

Preliminary findings from the forthcoming report “Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa” identify the importance of improving health to drive Africa’s economic growth and the need for the private sector to play a significant role in improving Africa’s health. Specifically, the report highlights:

  • Health affects economic growth.There is considerable evidence that raising the health of a population increases labor productivity, reduces absenteeism at school and at work and lowers catastrophic expenses on healthcare. Further, there is a robust link between improved health outcomes and economic growth. For instance, improvements in life expectancy at birth, child mortality rates and maternal mortality rates are linked with growth in GDP per capita.
  • The private sector has an important role to play in health. Additional support is needed, and governments do not have the capacity to do it on their own. On average, countries devote just six percent of their GDP to healthcare, much lower than in the U.S. and other OECD countries.
  • Current public-private partnerships in health can be more effective.Existing public-private partnerships are disproportionately focused on a small number of countries – 10 out of Africa’s 54 countries account for half of the current partnerships. Further, current public-private partnerships are not aligned with the countries’ most pressing health problems and are not broad enough. Partnerships and solutions require a holistic approach that also addresses underfunded areas resulting in poor infrastructure, malnutrition and the lack of clean water. Other underfunded areas such as education, technology innovation, products and supply chain offer opportunities for business engagement and investment.

The forthcoming publication of the “Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa” report will launch and serve as the foundation of discussions at the Africa Business: Health Forum on February 12, 2019 in Addis Ababa on the margins of the African Union Summit. The Africa Business: Health Forum will also formally launch the African Business Coalition for Health, a joint initiative of GBCHealth and the Aliko Dangote Foundation. ABCHealth aims to unlock synergies to help the private sector contribute more directly to meeting national and regional health goals in the context of SDG Agenda 2030 and Africa Agenda 2063 — and provides a platform that can help realize more strategic and collaborative partnerships, ultimately improving the standard of living, the quality of life, and the overall health and well-being of all Africans.