Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12 February 2019 (ECA) – There was consensus Tuesday during the great debate on health as an economic driver in Africa at the Africa Business Health Forum 2019 that governments on the continent need to improve efficiency in public spending if they are going to revamp their health delivery systems.
A rich list of panellists, including former to current finance ministers, agreed how governments choose to spend public resources matters as efficient and effective use of available resources can produce significant gains in the health sector.
The panellists also agreed that African governments alone cannot solve the continent’s health challenges hence the need for them to turn to the private sector to complement government funding in the critical sector.
They also agreed that there was need for better communication between the finance and health ministers to ensure there’s quality growth in health delivery systems on the continent.
Former Nigerian Finance Minister and Chair of GAVI, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said while enhanced public spending in health was important, evidence so far shows that more can be done with available resources if they are utilised efficiently to improve the continent’s health delivery systems.
“If we cannot use the resources we have more efficiently then we should think carefully about increasing the quantum,” she said, adding timely disbursement was also critical to avoid unnecessary losses.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said Africa has the ability to raise more through its domestic resources. “We can use these to work with the private sector in a smarter, quicker and better way to ensure we provide quality healthcare to everyone,” she said, adding Africa needs to commence working now if it is to start producing vaccines on the continent in the next ten or so years.
Djibouti Finance Minister, Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, said his government has teamed up with the private sector to ensure it provides quality healthcare but said more still needed to be done.
“One of our major milestones was to get the private sector involved so we can provide access to quality healthcare to everyone. We are still to get there – our services are stretched. We hope this dialogue will help us have more partners who can come to invest not only in the Djibouti but the region as a whole,” he said.
The minister urged Ethiopia and Djibouti to work together to improve their health delivery systems.
Zambia’s former Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said; “For many years to come the public sector will still remain the key provider of health services on the continent, especially at the primary level. It is important that we are here to discuss how we can work with the private sector to plug the gaps.”
He said in Zambia education and health sectors are treated as economic and not social sectors in a bid to attract investment with investors being given five-year tax investments.
IMF’s Africa Department Director, Abebe Selassie, said; “Health is a foundational investment which we cannot afford to make in Africa. It’s a core element of human and economic development. We have to invest in a defensive way.”
One Campaign’s Gail Smith said; “If we don't start from the bottom up we are never going to get there. It makes good sense to do the prevention; provide vaccines and all because if you do the prevention you incur the savings that allow you to do the primary healthcare.”
She said there’s great opportunity for the private sector in Africa’s healthcare system.
“Politicians listen to the private sector and they get things done,” said Ms. Smith, adding the continent’s youth is looking up to the private sector to help find solutions to their challenges, including health delivery.
Belay Begashaw, Executive Director of the SDG Africa Center, said the private sector should grab opportunities in the health sector as provided by the sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030.
“SDGs have huge investment potential whether it is health, energy or education,” he said.
In the end, the panellists also agreed health can be a driver for economic growth with the private sector coming in to close the huge funding gap to meet the need and demand of the sector across Africa.
Governments were urged to provide incentives and improve conditions of doing business to ensure successful private-public partnerships in the sector.
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