Africa’s Healthcare Cocktail: Of Coverage, Cost And Innovation

Thursday, September 26, 2013

“You guys are investing in hospitals.” That was the question (or masked hope) of an American-trained Ethiopian doctor, the owner and head doctor of a local hospital in Addis Ababa. The question is a familiar one to investors in many of Sub-Saharan Africa’s emerging economies. Many foreign-trained doctors are returning home to the desperate health sectors in Africa.

The perilous state of health care in Sub-Saharan Africa begs for more investment. Communicable and parasitical diseases persist, with few countries able to provide basic sanitation, clean water and adequate nutrition to all of their citizenry. Few countries are able to spend the $35 per person that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the minimum for basic health care. But despite the extensive poverty, more than 50 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s health expenditure is paid out-of-pocket by individuals.

Treatment for the communicable diseases consume a significant portion of the government healthcare outlays in Sub-Saharan Africa. Joint efforts between governments and multilateral organizations – highly dependent on donor money – have proven successful. Deaths linked to malaria have fallen nearly 35 percent since 2000, according to the WHO. The number of new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa have declined more than 25 percent since 2001. Aids-related deaths have declined almost one-third in the same timeframe. These results are praiseworthy.

But the reality is that few countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as reported by the WHO. Only 13 countries had maternal mortality rate of fewer than 550 deaths per 100,000 live births, while 31 countries had rates of 550 deaths or higher. Nearly 70 percent of the global burden of malaria stems from at-risk populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan African countries have proportionately fewer doctors than many developing countries, let alone rich countries.

Source: Ventures Africa (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
public health, public-private partnerships