Africa's economic growth depends on its health

by Kevin Ali, President, Emerging Markets, Merck 0

Africa’s vision of socio-economic transformation and the consequent prosperity of its people are dependent on the continent’s ability to find immediate and lasting solutions to its healthcare challenges. Underpinning this transformation is the need for innovations that will create more resilient, effective and sustainable health systems and deliver value to patients faster and more cost-effectively.

Is Africa there yet? No. But many innovative partnerships offer a different way of approaching the challenge of health-system transformation to more effectively advance the health of Africa’s people, and deliver on Africa’s aspirations.

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A virtuous cycle exists between health and economic development. Better population health is an important driver of economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive and can save more. Economic growth, in turn, provides an enabling basis for investments in health.

Towards healthier economies

There is no better time than now to chart out Africa’s health system transformation. The continent’s economies continue to grow faster than almost any other region in the world. Furthermore, emerging innovations offer a historical opportunity to boost progress even faster. Breakthroughs in vaccine research and development – against malaria and Ebola, for example – enable healthy people to stay healthy, and save money that can be invested elsewhere.

The pharmaceutical industry has been transforming its product development, market access and pricing strategies to better meet the unique and diverse contexts of African countries and their patients’ needs. Advances in sectors such as mobile technology allow faster, more efficient and more patient-centric care without the sunk costs of massive landline infrastructure. Such innovations can synchronise critical information in patient history, diagnostic imaging and prescription regimens, for example, to allow for more effective decision-making and access to otherwise inaccessible communities.

[Read: Africa’s biggest health threat]

Great strides have been made, for example, in reducing maternal and under-five mortality around the world, by 44 per cent and 58 per cent respectively between 1990 and 2015; yet much more still needs to be done. How to leverage innovation and new partnership models to achieve these ambitious goals is at the heart of the discussions at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, in May.

*The World Economic Forum on Africa is taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from 11 to 13 May.