Africa's health GITEX AFRICA
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By Olusegun Oruame

At the opening day of GITEX AFRICA in Marrakech, Morocco, experts explored how Africa can address its health challenges using technology and effective policies. Despite issues like poor sanitation and inadequate healthcare infrastructure, panelists highlighted the continent’s transformative journey towards a Digital Health Economy.

RELATED: GITEX Africa 2024: Continent’s Digital transformation takes center stage in Marrakech

Key discussions focused on leveraging private-public partnerships, improving healthcare access, and innovative models like MTN Foundation’s initiatives in Nigeria.

Africa’s health sector faces numerous challenges, including improving the doctor-patient ratio, addressing brain drain, enhancing medical education, increasing budgetary allocations, raising public health awareness, fostering private-public sector collaboration, and integrating technology into healthcare delivery. However, the panelists at GITEX AFRICA emphasized that Africa is on a transformative journey towards a Digital Health Economy, with both public and private sectors working together to improve the lives of 1.5 billion people across the continent.

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During the session titled “Global Perspectives of Private Health in Africa: Improving Health Outcomes” at the Future Health Stage, the panelists expressed optimism about the opportunities to revolutionize healthcare delivery in Africa through innovative solutions.

Dr. Tinuola Akingbola, MD/CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance, highlighted that the private sector could play a crucial role in closing health gaps, especially given the average doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:1000 and declining government revenue. Dr. Mories Atoki, CEO of ABC Health Nigeria, agreed, emphasizing the importance of private sector mobilization in achieving Africa’s health goals and driving health policies. Dr. Imane Kendili of Africa Global Health, Morocco, reinforced this position, noting that merging policies and objectives could improve public healthcare with private sector support.

A Template from MTN Foundation in Nigeria

Odunayo Sanya, Executive Secretary of MTN Foundation, presented a practical model of private sector intervention in healthcare using MTN Foundation’s initiatives in Nigeria. She explained that MTN Foundation focuses on youth development, women, and children, creating programs that provide women with access to primary healthcare, such as maternal and pediatric services, leveraging technology extensively.

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When the foundation started, there were fewer than 10,000 functional primary healthcare centers (PHCs) in Nigeria. However, MTN has revitalized about 30,000 PHCs across the country, equipping them with solar power and boreholes. The program also includes training healthcare providers to better serve the needs of their communities. The MTN Yellow Doctor initiative was designed to deliver health services directly to people’s homes, addressing cultural barriers in some communities.

Sanya stressed the importance of private sector involvement in helping women access healthcare through technology. She highlighted MTN’s efforts to empower women in rural areas with technological devices, enabling them to access preventive and curative healthcare information. Building women’s capacity to leverage technology is fundamental to improving healthcare.

Dr. Salvia Sazhin, Founder of Doctors at Work, Russia, who has extensive work on telemedicine in Nigeria agreed, noting that technology is a fundamental tool for bringing healthcare access to millions and empowering non-health actors to drive sectoral transformations and impact lives positively.

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