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African health as key driver of economic growth, security

By Chukwuma Muanya
21 April 2022   |   4:02 am
Co-Chair of the Core Panel of the Initiative on the Future of Health and Economic Resiliency in Africa (FHERA) and Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, has called for focusing to reorient African health.

•FHERA experts dialogue on accelerating achievement of AU Agenda 2063
Co-Chair of the Core Panel of the Initiative on the Future of Health and Economic Resiliency in Africa (FHERA) and Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, has called for focusing to reorient African health.

Members of the Core Panel of FHERA convened in Dakar, Senegal from March 14 – 15, 2022.

Pate told The Guardian: “The initiative is aimed at shaping the future of health in Africa. We are very appreciative of the leadership and support of President Macky Sall of Senegal and also President of the African Union 2022. We are focusing to reorient African health towards prevention and promotion, raising the prioritisation of health in domestic policies as key driver of economic growth and security, in light of recent pandemic experiences of Africa.

“Revamping health workforce and their incentives especially at the primary health levels, promoting digitalisation, shaping health markets, regulations and enabling private sector participation in local manufacturing and service delivery without leaving anyone behind. Issues like hygiene, nutrition, food systems and climate, as well as specific challenges in the Sahel region were also discussed. We will arm African leaders with analysis, evidence and recommendations for actions to change the trajectory in line with the Agenda 2063 vision.”

Pate said health could be a key driver of economic growth with African youth and women, as arrowheads for societal transformation. The panel called for reforms of policies, systems and regulatory structures to improve efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and responsiveness to the needs of communities and the citizens.

According to him, political leadership is needed to prioritise domestic financing to meet citizens’ health expectations, while reorienting external aid to follow Africa-led priorities and mechanisms. He said workforce development, especially the expansion of pre-service training, optimising deployment, and leveraging the African Diaspora are important areas of focus. To get back on track towards truly Universal Health Coverage, he said community-based primary health and hospital systems development must be integrated with strengthened public health systems for prevention and response to disease outbreaks.

The Panel highlighted the urgency of enhancing local production, developing at-scale and sustainable value chains for pharmaceuticals, health products, nutrition products, devices and related technologies; regulatory reforms and realising the value of a continental health services market, particularly by reviving a mandate for healthcare in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA). Expanding private sector investments and fostering digital and analytic ecosystems would improve access and quality of health care.

With the FHERA initiative now activated, the panel and working groups will develop programmes in the identified priority areas and engage in relevant consultations and policy dialogue, to make recommendations and provide options as a “brain trust” for leaders in the continent.

The Panel is co-Chaired by Prof. Awa Coll Seck, Minister of State in the Presidency Senegal. It comprises key leaders, academics and practitioners affiliated with the World Health Organisation (AFRO), UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Africa Centre for Disease Control, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Congo Medical Research Foundation, Health Strategy and Delivery Foundation, The Brookings Institution, Agence Francaise de Developpement, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and partners including The Lancet, Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and facilitation by McKinsey & Company.

The Core Panel is appreciative of His Excellency Macky Sall, President of Senegal and 2022 President of the African Union, for his support of the initiative and strategic leadership in the continent.

The Initiative is a multi-stakeholder, multisector platform of panel members, positioned at the intersection of policy, research and scholarship, and actions for impact on the African continent. It aims to contribute towards the emergence of a better future for health and economic resiliency in Africa, based on experiences before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in alignment with Agenda 2063 of the African Union, which envisions a united, prosperous, peaceful and people-centered continent, in a sustainable planet.

In its Dakar deliberations, the Core Panel outlined key principles and priority areas for realising its objectives. There is an urgency to reshape the narrative of African health systems towards autonomy and self-reliance and develop strategies and partnerships accordingly. Focusing on prevention and promotion of public health and well-being of communities, in an integrated manner is critical, with consideration of changes in the burden of disease, and determinants, such as education, hygiene, nutrition, migration, agriculture and food systems, climate change and the environment.