Business leaders take on healthcare in Africa.

Author:Versi, Anver

One of the most significant events to be held on the sidelines of the October UN General Assembly in New York was a meeting of some of the most progressive private sector as well as public sector actors to work on charting out a new direction for healthcare on the continent. Anver Versi was there.

"We have a saying here: Africa's problems are Africa's opportunities. That's what the stubborn optimists like myself believe. And today, there's no greater opportunity than improving health care throughout the continent." This was part of Aliko Dangote's statement read out for him by his daughter, Halima, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month.

She was addressing an audience packed with some of Africa's most progressive personalities at a specially convened High Level Dialogue on Africa's Health and Finance. The meeting of key stakeholders was organised by the global coalition GBCHealth, the Aliko Dangote Foundation and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

The aim was to chart a new, more effective direction for public-private participation in health care delivery in Africa and toprepare the ground for the launch of an excitingly fresh initiative, the African Business Coalition for Health (ABCHealth), in Addis Ababa during the African Business: Health Forum in February.

GBCHealth and the Aliko Dangote Foundation are the founders of the new health coalition. It will work to attract the private sector to increase its participation in the ultimate goal of improving healthcare across the continent.

Out of pocket

Faure Gnassingbe, the President of Togo said: "We passed on the responsibility of certain facilities, namely clinics, pharmacies and hospices, to specific private entities who manage them.

"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."

Given the rise of African populations, estimated to reach 2.5bn in 2050, the cost of maintaining health systems will overwhelm governments, said Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of UNECA.

"We need PPPs in health in Africa," she added. "While the state should provide the basics, the private sector should take some of the burden off the state."

Africa is one of the largest consumers of drugs in the world but it is also one of the largest importers of drugs, said...

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