The pandemic unveiled deeper challenges facing Africa’s healthcare system. Stakeholders, decision-makers, and the elite in various regions were not left out of being stung by the viper of chronic underinvestment, the sole cause of poor care delivery to populations. The crisis hastened several policy dialogues, an increased urgency to strengthen health systems and transform health service delivery in many countries.
Fortunately for the African continent, world leaders seem to be giving attention to the harrowing state of health, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. On the 30th of September, The World Bank Board of Directors approved a $400 million credit in additional financing to support the Nigerian government in the safe acquisition and effective deployment of COVID-19 vaccines within the country as part of her COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project. Zanzibar as well has achieved a pre-elimination malaria status as mortality rates resulting from the disease have reduced dramatically due to the increased level of funding the country has gotten. However, Africa still has a wide gap to cover, and now, more than ever, it has become imperative for business leaders to contribute efforts, reimagine the sector as health issues have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences on economies and societies, and governments.
Health systems in Africa are still underutilizing the wide range of perks digital resources provide. Business leaders should seek to ensure that investments are made into new technological solutions, ridding the system of fragmentation while providing visibility into the entire journey of a patient, which allows stakeholders to make the right decisions and efficiently measure impact. With this nut of a backdated health system cracked, there will be so many opportunities to plug financial leakages, thus making healthcare an asset rather than a liability. A good example is seen with Moscow’s Integrated Medical Information Analytical System, which improved operations within the health system leading to the facility saving $63.4 million in revenue annually.
Another huge problem African countries are facing revolves around a critical shortage of health workers. The research of Yohannes Kinfu under The World Health Organization estimated that it would take 36 years for doctors and 29 years for nurses/midwives in Africa to achieve the target already set by WHO, which estimates a rate of 2.28% of professionals per 1000 population. These estimates are not guaranteed, meaning some countries may never hit the target. This clearly shows that the current number of health workers is insufficient to meet population health needs at that point in time. Business leaders must make strategic plans to ensure that a sustainable approach is made to ensure all health workers can practice in their country with adequate access to appropriate tools.
Finally, business leaders must build resilient systems ready to respond to health emergencies, including pandemics. Although Taiwan did not hold off COVID-19 for too long, its longstanding strategies of masking, quarantine measures, and contact tracing kept its citizens safe for a lengthened period of time even though they were in close proximity with China, the source of the viral spread. Preparedness is key in battling health challenges, and it is important for business leaders to work with governments and other experts in the sphere to build infrastructures, develop strategic partnerships, and ensure that key enablers such as funding are set in place.
By focusing on these areas, business leaders will be able to accelerate the transformation of their health systems, build resilience against future disease outbreaks, and improve general health outcomes for populations.
About the Author
Lauretta Hamza is a strategic communications professional whose renowned work for over half a decade cuts across the domains of public policy and health; strategy development, financing, research, capacity building, program design, implementation as well as evaluation. Lauretta aims to direct policymaking and sustainable development with the goal of strengthening systems to improve the lives of populations living in Africa using scalable business-economic models backed by data and technology.