An ambitious platform, African Business Coalition for Health (ABC Health) was launched on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to bring together business leaders in Africa to tackle basic health care challenges in the continent.
The forum, a joint initiative of Aliko Dangote Foundation, GBC Health and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) is expected to unify Africa’s key decision makers in exploring opportunities for catalysing growth in the continent’s economy, through business partnership to invest in the health sector.
The inauguration of the forum and unveiling its logo took place on the margin of the 32nd African Union Summit of Heads of Government and business community leaders.
According to a press statement released by the Dangote Group on the event, the forum which will be collaborating with the heads of governments in Africa to achieve a healthier African continent, has received assurance of collaboration from the governments.
The statement said ABC Health was created with the objective of driving business leadership, strengthen partnership and facilitating investment to change the face of health care in Africa.
Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian billionaire, has been an advocate of the introduction of a health fund financed by private companies. He had promised in March last year at the expanded meeting of the National Economic Council in Nigeria that he would coordinate other private business to key into the scheme.
Mr Dangote, chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation, had said that the government needs to seek alternative funding to healthcare as funding from donors were drying up. He proposed that the government should introduce a fund that one per cent of private companies profit should be used for basic healthcare funding as obtained in the education sector.
According to the statement, Mr 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.
Mr Dangote said there is a vital relationship between health and economic growth and development as access to essential health services is an important aspect of development.
“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.
“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.
Also, the co-chair of the GBC health, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, said while Africa has 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 said healthcare in Africa is constrained by scarce public funding and limited donor support.
He lamented that the out of pocket expenditure accounts for 36 per cent of Africa’s total healthcare spending. He said 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 N66bn per annum.
Mr Imhokuede said it was clear that African governments alone cannot solve this challenge, which is further exacerbated by our growing population and Africa’s changing disease portfolio. Therefore there is no alternative but to turn to the private sector to complement government funding.
“Our continent accounts for less than 2% of global health even though our very fertile people account for 16% of global population and carry 26% of the global disease burden. By 2050 Africans will account for more than 50% of global population growth much of that coming from my country Nigeria, a great opportunity and at the same time a ticking time bomb should we fail our health systems quickly, he said.
In a similar vein, the Executive Secretary of the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Vera Songwe, said Africa with over 50 countries is struggling to combat her healthcare challenges. She said organisations such as that being launch offer a veritable perspective from the private sector to the solutions to Africa’s healthcare problems.
She said about $17.3 billion worth of drugs are imported into African Continent and that if Africa can 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,” she said
According to her, a healthier Africa would be a happy Africa and a happy Africa will be a productive Africa.