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Bridging gap in the health care sector: AfDB offers strategic analysis on financing innovatively with the private sector


“The relevance of private sector role in delivering innovative health care to the poorest people, with the view to achieving global goal,” was underscored at a side event organized today in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Themed: “Keeping Health affordable-Leveraging Private and Domestic Resources for Health Innovations” the event was interactive and brought together key private sector representatives, Civil Society organizations as well as stakeholders in the health care area.

The African Development Bank Group was highly represented by its Finance Vice-President, Charles Boamah, who spanned over the institution’s engagement in building strong partnerships with the private sector to accelerate progress towards high-priority health objectives in Africa. He noted that over the last two decades, with help from the Bank, hundreds of millions of people have escaped the vicious cycle in health sector.

Recalling however the challenges ahead, the Vice-President explained that even though many African countries have made significant progress in the health sector, not all segments of the society equally benefit from the progress. “There is still lack of political ownership and a lot more remains to be done, especially in the areas of innovative financing and technology,” Boamah said.

In the area of innovative financing, the Vice-President stressed the need for stouter engagement where the interests of for-profit providers of health care and the public interests overlap.  Building on examples, he also said inequality in health outcomes, access and service utilization remains high. “The poor have the largest unmet demand for family planning, make the lowest use of maternal care, have the lowest vaccination coverage, and are least likely to seek care when ill. The poor also have the lowest physical access to health care.”

Boamah also talked of interest buy-downs and risk transfer mechanisms, in order to facilitate provision of more affordable services, to organizations that are willing to engage in the sector, but are reluctant due to high interest rate they have to pay to build their facilities. 

He also touched on technology as a major factor for transformation in the health sector, explaining that the Bank Group would soon be piloting an M-Health project in Zambia to provide sustainable, scalable and cost-effective solutions to reduce exposure of vulnerable groups to key non-communicable disease risk factors. He observed that increasingly, the power of technology is being harnessed to bring timely and more affordable solutions to the underserved.  “Eight out of ten Africans have access to a cell phone, and mobile technology has been used to train health and social workers in pregnancy programs and also HIV/AIDS programs,” he observed. “We can and should leverage on the delivery capacity of mobile service providers, companies that have demonstrated an ability to reach rural populations.”

Vice-President Boamah also stressed on local ownership, without which the results of all other efforts will be compromised. “This has many dimensions: Political ownership - this is also important for adequate and efficient use of domestic resources to improve health services. A necessary condition for true ownership is sufficient local capacity. Africa accounts for 22% of the global disease burden, but has only 2% of the global health workforce.” 

On efforts being made in Ethiopia where 34,000 health extension workers have been trained and deployed to provide maternal and child health services in communities, he pointed out that the sustainability of the health agenda is dependent on strong local ownership, which is why they must be part and parcel of the discourse on innovative solutions.

Recognizing all these challenges to health-system development, AfDB with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will partner and design a practical way to support successful public-private interactions with a view to achieving innovative health care services to poorest in Africa.

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