Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has decried the inability of nations across the African continent to harness available resources to provide home-grown solutions to their health challenges.
Mr Obasanjo said this at the launch of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) Independent Task Team on Equitable and Universal Access to Vaccines and Vaccination in Africa.
The launch, which was held on Monday at the Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital (IUTH), Okada Town, Edo State, had in attendance medical experts, researchers and policymakers from nations across the continent of Africa.
CoDA is an initiative of the Africa Union created to discuss and begin the process of vaccine development and distribution within the African continent.
Mr Obasanjo, who is the chair of the CoDA’s board of directors, said Africa’s main challenges cannot be attributed to lack of funds or resources but the use of all within its disposal to proffer sustainable solutions.
Represented by Abdoulaye Bathily, former special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Central Africa, he said the African region must harness available resources to develop home-grown solutions.
“I have always believed that Africa’s main challenge is not the lack of funds or resources. Our main challenge is the inability to harness available resources to provide customized home-grown solutions needed to address the challenges we see across the continent,” Mr Obasanjo said.
Other members of the CoDA team are Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, Deputy Chancellor of Igbinedion University Okada, Lucky Igbinedion, Chief Medical Director of Igbinedion University Teaching Hospital (IUTH), Godwin Bazuaye and Chairman, Pan African Manufacturers Association, Mansur Ahmed.
Mr Obasanjo lamented that many researchers, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are constantly being drawn out of Africa to serve in other continents.
He said this had left the region underdeveloped.
He said; “They use their intellect to serve the needs of other continents, and most times without being duly credited or acknowledged for their intellectual investments, while our health systems are underdeveloped.
“We need to reverse this trend and begin to take actions to harness our local resources to solve our local problems.”
He said through initiatives like CoDA, Africa will be able to encourage and retain its talents and support them in finding solutions to its age-long healthcare challenges.
“The initiative we are launching today is one of those initiatives that will help Africa look inwards to identify and channel available resources to areas where they are needed.
“This initiative has the potential to positively change the vaccine and vaccination landscape across the continent and set precedence for vaccine entrepreneurship in the continent.
“If we carefully nurture the initiative through to maturity, we would have laid a good foundation for a healthier Africa using, largely, resources from within the continent,” he said.
Private sector involvement
In her remarks, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, said public health research in Africa has suffered some setbacks in the past few decades partly because of insufficient investment in research and development.
Ms Nsanzabaganwa explained that the gaps between public health research, the private sector and public policy in Africa continue to widen.
This, she said, is partly because the African private sector has not shown sufficient interest in health sector research and development.
“Public health research is capital intensive, but we must also realise that health business is everybody’s business, judging from our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said, adding that; “Apart from the lives lost, the private sector has been greatly affected, and that tells us that if the people are sick, businesses will also be sick.”
She said the private sector is the spirit of any nation because they give direction to human and economic development.
“When businesses don’t play their role of uplifting the morale and helping to raise living standards sustainably, they lose their relevance,” she said.
Ms Nsanzabaganwa said it was essential for the African private sector to be involved in public health research that will help find solutions to the health problems on the continent.
She said the launch of CoDA is a wake-up call to other private universities and businesses in Africa to contribute towards strengthening healthcare services across the continent.
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