The solution to Africa’s healthcare problems – cruelly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic – lie not just in improving its healthcare infrastructure, but on improving the continent’s financial independence, and weaning it off its outside relationship. You can’t easily have strong healthcare and a bad economy.
This was one of the clear conclusions of a COVID-focussed panel of experts at a webinar last weekend which was organised by Anadach Group. Long dependent on or expecting “helicopter” solutions from the West, the panel was clear that it is time to find an internal solution. Not least because the West has its own problems to sort out (COVID having struck Europe and the USA seemingly far harder, in health terms, than Africa). As one panellist put it “we’re used to getting leftovers; now there’s nothing left’.
In part, the answer lies in creating more inter-African dependency. Substantially, it was agreed that boosts to the nations’ economies were really at the heart of improving the nations’ healthcare. And if you want to build more resilient health systems in Africa, it needs to integrate its economies and increase the amount of exchange between countries.
On a more fundamental level, there was recognition that physical infrastructure needs improvement too; if you can’t get blood samples to be tested for COVID to a hospital on time because of the state of a road, as one Liberia-based speaker said, then that road needs to be considered part of your healthcare infrastructure too.
Who will finance and run this new healthcare infrastructure? The African Development Bank has a $10bn fund for starters, but more is needed. Public-private cooperation is crucial, but attracting the foreign investor is difficult in an unpredictable environment which affords less stability and legal protection than they are used to.
But – especially in areas like telemedicine – one only has to look at the explosion of the smart phone in Africa to see the sheer scope of the potential that a successful healthcare entrepreneur could tap into.David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.