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Opinions: Call For African Companies To Engage In Health Goals; Holistic Approach To Development

African Private Sector Can Play Key Role In Improving Health Outcomes In Africa

“The serious health problems afflicting our continent significantly affect our economies, reducing productivity, creating gaps in the workforce, causing innumerable sick days and restricting growth in African businesses,” First Lady of Rwanda Jeannette Kagame and CEO of Access Bank Plc Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, who both serve on the Friends of the Global Fund Africa board, write together in a East African opinion piece that calls upon the private sector to help bolster the work with African governments to improve health outcomes in Africa.

“Health spending cripples African consumers and governments, the tax base struggles to expand and foreign investment is discouraged by high rates of illness among workers. … And yet many of these diseases are easily preventable or, in the case of HIV/AIDS, they can be effectively managed,” Kagame and Aig-Imoukhuede write. “African businesses not only have the financial strength, expertise and logistical reach overturn this problem, but they stand to benefit the most from a reinvigorated African market and a healthier workforce. … Using established multilaterals like the Global Fund is an effective way for the private sector to engage health goals while maintaining business focus.”

“We know only too well that our continent’s economies are inextricably tied to the health of our people. The time has indeed come for African companies to start acting in their own interests,” Kagame and Aig-Imoukhuede conclude (11/1).

Holistic, Sustainable Approach To Development Needed

A “holistic approach” is “essential for building the solid infrastructure and social systems needed to sustain scientific research and technological innovation in developing countries,” SciDev.Net Director David Dickson writes in an editorial on the site. Writing in advance of the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, due to draw “more than 2,000 participants” in Switzerland this month, Dickson states, “[t]he popularity of the meeting reflects growing support for the idea that improving health requires more than pursuing discrete objectives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Equally essential is an awareness of how different development goals relate to one another, such as the effect of economic growth on raising levels of public health.”

The editorial looks at efforts to introduce “greater ‘systems thinking'” into health agendas, which Dickson describes as “easier said than done” because it “challenges some of the conventional ways of delivering development aid.” Dickson also describes “how to bring together the public and private sectors” and the need for “helping countries build up the complex systems on which social and economic development depends,” which were discussed at a recent meeting by the Council on Health Research for Development (10/29).