News: The future of healthcare systems in Africa

Thengo Kavinya

Managing Editor, Malawi Medical Journal

The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in both developed and developing nations alike. According to Professor Julio Frenk of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard University, COVID-19 has exposed major flaws in the underlying logic of the pre-pandemic global health system. The assumption that infectious disease threats will emerge from the poorest countries and spread to wealthier ones has been dispelled.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has hit hard the healthcare industry stakeholders in Africa. It has exposed the weaknesses, loopholes and inadequacies in the healthcare delivery infrastructure. Health systems in Africa that are already frail were inadequately prepared to handle the pandemic. The main setbacks in health system preparation included lack of available health services needed for the pandemic, inadequate resources, equipment, limited testing ability and surge capacity for COVID-19. Apart from these Africa did not have the potential to manufacture vaccines to provide protection against multiple diseases affecting it.

The Philips 2019 Future of Health in South Africa Report outlines that Africa lags behind in manufacturing, production and reconfiguring of its own medicines and in pharmaceutical supply value chains. It further explains this is because the continent is not up to date on the usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital systems in the healthcare delivery practices. Apart from this the continent has limited health infrastructure and workforce, including a shortage of professionals trained in critical care and inadequate tertiary care facilities. But irrespective of the landscape challenges, the African healthcare industry sector has attracted so much interest, and if well regulated, Foresight Africa 2022 Report estimates the sector to be worth about US$259 billion by 2030.

It is with the above in mind that SJG Capital have developed, The Future of Health Africa (FHA©) Summit & Exhibition, the first event of its kind in Africa that seeks to address the African healthcare delivery challenges. The conference is the first post COVID-19 event and it’s anticipated to have an intrinsic appeal to capture media, stakeholder attention and participation, reflecting an ever-establishing and challenging healthcare market locally, regionally and globally. Stakeholders to the conference are also anticipated to brainstorm on ways on how the continent can deliver better health outcomes taking into consideration the lower numbers of health care professionals on the continent. The conference will be taking place every year at the Radisson Blu Hotel in South Africa.

Speaking on the sidelines to the summit one of the presenters Professor Petro Terblanche Managing Director of Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines said innovators should have deep and good understanding of the socio-economic benefits of creating a vertically integrated local manufacturing sector, “we cannot focus on the potential premiums that may have to be paid in the short term to jump start local manufacturing, Africa as a continent should have an integrated multi-factorial benefit assessment that drives decision making”. She added that the continent must think portfolio and long-term sustainability approach to manufacturing and supply of essential health products, “the continent must decrease its reliance and build a sector that will have profound impact on the socio-economic development while reducing its position of vulnerability”.

Commenting on the strides Africa has so far made coming from the COVID-19 pandemic Terblanche mentioned the establishment of clinical trials platforms and quality sites as a huge strength that should be used to support local product development, “facilities and programs such as the technology transfer Hubs are creating capacity and capabilities for vaccine design, development and production in Africa and supports technology access and transfer in a sustainable model”. 

Link to the meeting…

Leave a Reply