In anticipation of the upcoming Kigali Health Conference scheduled for February in Rwanda, key stakeholders including UNAIDS, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA)-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), health-care experts, and representatives from civil society recently convened to deliberate on strategies aimed at bolstering investments in healthcare across Africa.
According to www.iol.co.za, The two-day conference in Lusaka, Zambia, focused on ways of “investing in health” aimed at increasing domestic health financing to strengthen health systems and achieve quality assured Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa.
AUDA-Nepad chief executive Nardos Bekele-Thomas stated that it was a crucial gathering, cementing the public-private partnership in attracting health-care investment to the continent and providing platforms for civil society and other stakeholders.
“Our meeting today is a commitment to fortify co-ordination and accelerate the implementation of the African Leadership Meeting Declaration on Investing in Health, which has provided us with a road map to advance the health agenda on the African continent.
“Crucially, the declaration recognizes the key role of the private sector in supporting governments’ efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage by strengthening and investing in health systems.
“This means investing in health infrastructure, increasing private sector engagement in the health sector, strengthening health systems, and ensuring access to quality health care services for all. We must also address the social determinants of health, recognising the interconnectedness of health with education, poverty, and gender equality,” Bekele-Thomas said.
Bekele-Thomas said Africa was facing an urgent health challenge citing that while the continent imports 95% of its drugs, it accounts for merely 3% of all medicine production globally.
“It is estimated that Africa could be losing up to $1 billion (about R18.8bn) annually on overseas medical services. For example, Nigerians alone spend more than $200 million yearly on medical tourism to India.
Similarly, Kenyans spend about $80m annually to seek treatment for conditions such as cancer and brain tumours in India, underscoring the significant financial impact of such health-care-related travel,” Bekele-Thomas said.
Chair of the African Union Business Council Dr Amany Asfour said they had established a health-care cluster and partnered with the private sector to promote health and ensure that investment continued to flow into Africa.
“We aim to capacitate health-care practitioners and enhance the health-care system in the continent. We need to implement skills development training and build capacity in our health-care professionals.
We’d also like to improve infrastructure to ensure the free movement of goods and services, we need to industrialise our medicine equipment because at the moment we receive most of the medication from outside Africa.
“All stakeholders must ensure that medical services are easily accessible to all our people,” Asfour said.
Vice President of the National Network of People Living with HIV Elsie Ayeh mentioned that there was a need to ensure that people living with HIV continued to receive the support they needed without any discrimination. She said that more opportunities should be identified to ensure that there was sufficient investment from the private sector.
In Ghana, we have suffered a shortage of antiretroviral drugs and this happens to many other African states where people living with HIV are left vulnerable,” Ayeh explained.
She also suggested a continental framework be set up to counter challenges associated with shortages of all kinds of medicines.
Themed “Sustaining the HIV response through financing and investing in health systems for improved health security on the continent”, the two-day conference underway in Lusaka, Zambia, aims to share best practices and lessons learnt from private sector engagement in health and health financing.
In February 2019, African leaders adopted a declaration (Assembly/AU/Decl.4 XXXII) aimed at increasing domestic health financing to strengthen health systems and achieve quality assured Universal Health Coverage in Africa.
The initiatives by the African Leaders Meeting (ALM) declaration was grounded on Agenda 2063 and the Africa Health Strategy 2016-2030 that prioritises “sustainable and predictable financing as essential to building viable health systems”.
“The declaration also builds on the Abuja 2001 political commitments by African Union (AU) member states to allocate at least 15% of the national budgets to health,” said AUDA-Nepad communications officer Millicent Kgeledi.
She stated that under the ALM declaration, Africa’s heads of state and governments committed to, among other things, an increase in domestic investment in health.
Heads of state are meant to review progress annually against the benchmarks of the Africa Scorecard on Domestic Financing for Health.