A robust and profitable private sector is important to supporting the African continent to have strong health systems, medical sector players have said.
They made the observation on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 during the “Our Common Health: Delivering Equitable Healthcare,” a session held at the CHOGM2022 Business Forum in Kigali.
“We need to build profitable healthcare MSME (micro, small, and medium-sized healthcare enterprises) providers in each community, who can provide care that is relevant to their community and make money doing that so that they can pay the staff that they employ , ”Said Gregory Rockson, CEO of Mpharma, a firm that engages in fixing drug supply in Africa.
At the event, it was indicated that lack of good salary or income is the major factor that has been resulting in medical brain drain in Africa – a situation where doctors or healthcare providers leave the continent for other parts of the world in search for greener pastures .
“One of the biggest problems we face today is lots of doctors, health workers migrating from the continent to the West. And I don’t blame them for doing that. I would like a good salary; I would like to be able to take care of my family, ”Rockson said.
“And, unless we can actually begin to create profitability, and when we create health programs that actually underlie sustainability, I do think 20 years from now, we will come back and we will talk about strengthening health systems in Africa, and we will be talking about donors, and humanitarian aid, ”he expressed.
“Philanthropy is great, but I believe that the future of health systems has been built on the back of profitable healthcare MSMEs.”
Underscoring the need to build strong health systems in Africa, Professor Fisseha, the Director of Global Programs at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, said that “what we saw with COVID was the global mechanisms that we put in place thinking they would focus on equity, they will protect marginalised communities, they were going to be inclusive, clearly failed us.
“So, with COVID, all those global solidarities were now at the door, and nationalism took place, and everybody was scrambling for vaccines and Africa was left on its own,” she said.
She indicated that when a country has good governance, leadership, and national plan, it can put in place a mechanism that really builds a strong primary healthcare system.
“I am all for global solidarity, but I am also very skeptical that we can get together and talk about global solidarity without building the capacity of locals and nationals and frankly building a robust private sector that can relieve some of the burdens,” she said. .
“Governments cannot pay salaries of the workforce, and that’s why they are migrating. So, having a robust private sector that’s based on technology [is necessary]”She noted.
However, she said that a functional Government is key to having a thriving private sector, indicating that governments can create an enabling environment, the right policies, and the right infrastructure for businesses to thrive.
The need for vaccine equity
While vaccine manufacturing in Africa is currently nascent, demand is set to more than double in volume over the next decade from about 1 billion doses currently to over 2.7 billion doses in 2040, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) .
By value, excluding future demand for Covid-19 vaccines and most other new vaccines yet to be developed, the public market for vaccines in Africa is expected to reach an estimated $ 3 billion to $ 6 billion by 2040, it indicated.
Currently, it added, local African manufacturing supplies about 1 percent of the total continental demand, and manufacturers are consolidated across just five countries (South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Senegal). Remaining supply [of more than 90 percent] is dependent on global providers including large multinational corporations (Merck, Sanofi, Pfizer, and GSK) or large, incumbent developing countries vaccine manufacturers (DCVMs).
Talking about innovating for vaccine equity, Holm Keller, Executive Chairman of kENUP Foundation said that the ground-breaking for the construction of an mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant by German biotechnology firm BioNTech in Rwanda, is expected to be held on Thursday, June 23, 2023 in Kigali.
kENUP Foundation is a global non-profit public benefit foundation supporting research-based innovation in the wider health industries for societal benefit.
Keller said that they are expecting the first vaccine to be manufactured there to be against malaria.
“So, hopefully something that can contribute to eradication [of malaria]as a preventive malaria vaccine for both small children and adults, “he said.
“So tomorrow is a really big day not only for Africa, but also for the whole world. It is a substantive contribution to overcome vaccine access that can only be overcome if we look at the demand and be met locally, ”he said.
Localising vaccine manufacturing could reduce reliance on foreign aid and supply, mitigate risks of supply chain disruption and priority vaccine access, and generate substantial economic impact through job creation, increased investments, and increased intracontinental trade, according to Africa CDC.