What is the analysis underlying the organization of this conference?
Africa is undergoing profound changes, all of which have an impact on human capital development and on how various stakeholders from the public and private sectors consider investment in the health sector. Demography in Africa is characterized by a young and fast-growing population; this offers very dynamic growth prospects, provided there is judicious investment in human capital and a full leveraging of skills. Economically, African countries have been experiencing a growth rate of 5% on average for the past decade and continue to resist global crises. The private sector is more than ever present. On the technology side, the continent is experiencing the technological curve, with spectacular advances in information and communication technology. By 2025, mobile telephony network coverage will be almost universal. Politically, democracy is gaining ground in Africa, and governance standards continue to improve, thanks to the growing demand for citizen participation and accountability, which has encouraged democratic reforms and reduced conflict and civil wars.
Aware of these changes, we believe that traditional investment in health is not an appropriate response. The challenges are different. The actors have changed. The technological means available have also changed. Healthcare supply and demand has evolved. Based on these facts, we conceived the Africa Health Forum as the first public-private forum on health economics in Africa. The Forum will acknowledge recent developments on the continent and give to the private sector a place equivalent to that of the public sector and foster interaction between the two. The Forum will highlight four main themes, in tune with the major changes the continent is undergoing, to guide investment in health: employment, governance, new technology and financing.
Could you kindly illustrate what this new health investment model would mean, for instance, for an organization such as AfDB?
I think the multisector approach is a better option, because the continent's challenges go beyond the traditional health investment framework. In addition, the private and public sectors need to better develop their synergies for more efficient investments in the health sector. As part of its new human development strategy, AfDB will support investment in health through three thrusts:
- Development of skills and technology to improve competitiveness and employment prospects. For instance, AfDB will support the development of the pharmaceutical sector on the continent, public-private partnerships and skills development to ensure the provision of quality care;
- Promotion of efficiency and inclusion in healthcare service delivery. The objective is to optimize the use of financial resources and strengthen accountability and citizen participation in governance, provide equitable and better quality services attuned to the citizens' choices and contribute to the stability of societies characterized by openness; and
- Establishment of inclusion-enhancing financial and social systems.
Based on your experience on the current dynamics in Africa, what do you see as the promising innovative solutions to enhance the development of the health sector in Africa?
African States and all public and private actors must mobilize to carry on the progress achieved but a new paradigm shift is needed to promote the development of the health sector. African states should mobilize more domestic resources to invest in health, and the current environment is favourable. The continent is indeed experiencing a remarkable growth rate making it possible to invest more national resources while putting in place policies that enhance equity and social justice. The fiscal space prospects linked with the exploitation of natural resources are also promising. It is also noteworthy that States which have made progress in terms of good governance, accountability and transparency in the use of resources for health are those with the best results in mortality reduction. African States should also intensify efforts to optimize the use of resources invested in health in sync with the Tunis Declaration of July 2012 on Value for Money, Sustainability and Accountability in the Health Sector. They must create stronger incentives for evidence-based resource allocation and for activities with a high impact on health.
How is this different from what was already attempted in the past?
In the past, African countries relied heavily on foreign aid to finance health; balance of power must now be readjusted through the use of innovative financing mechanisms. Aid is on the decline due to the global financial crisis and donors' new priorities. The resulting financing gap must be bridged at the national level and States must use innovative ways to raise additional funds. For instance, several African countries are analysing sustainable financing options for HIV and malaria, and their implementation mechanisms. This includes in particular (Malaria Bonds), deductions from banking and airline ticket transactions, taxes on alcohol or cigarettes. Partnerships with the private sector are obviously also essential.
Precisely: in terms of health financing, what according to you is the role of the industrial and commercial private sector in Africa?
The private sector is a key element in meeting the challenges currently facing the health sector in Africa. The private sector plays an important role in Africa at all levels of health service delivery and its increased engagement could help to improve the quality and accessibility of services, accountability, create jobs and promote robust economic growth on the continent. The private sector has a key role to play to trump the ongoing technological revolution which offers new options for health service management, financing and delivery.
In this case, a new vision for the health sector would be necessary...
Indeed, the health sector is a productive sector that can provide about 1.5 million jobs for African youths by 2020 and contribute to the economic growth of the continent. For example, the development of the pharmaceutical industry and an increase in the demand for medicines create opportunities for research and development, manufacturing, sale and distribution of drugs. Outside the commercial sphere, there are several opportunities as well for the development of social entrepreneurship in the sector.
Can you give us more information on the format of the Africa Health Forum? How will the momentum be maintained after Geneva?
The Africa Health Forum is intended for policy makers in Africa, both from the public and private sectors. It aims to provide African policy-makers with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions that will help them better invest in the health sector, throughout their country or region.
Therefore, the Forum is designed as a networking platform. 'B2B' (Business to Business) meetings will enable the participants to meet confidentially in dedicated lounges. An exhibition space will also be made available to companies wishing to present their activities to participants. Hence, the Forum will make it possible to engage in discussions that could culminate in partnerships.
In addition, AfDB, as is already the case, will continue its regular dialogue with governments driving through ideas, best practices and solutions presented at the Forum. AfDB will also listen to the public and private sector representatives to explore opportunities for collaboration and support for their initiatives. Lastly, the Africa Health Forum is designed as a regular come-together; the second edition of the Forum will provide an update on progress achieved and maintain contact with the participants of the first edition.
For more information, please visit the forum website.