Innovative Technologies needed to improve healthcare in Africa
Healthcare in Africa will not meet the standards necessary to
combat its disease burden, based on the fact that we have only two percent of
the world’s doctors.
This calls for a continent-wide adoption of disruptive
technologies and innovations in healthcare that should be part of the
discussions for inclusion in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
pact, adds the specialists.
"How do you get drugs to inaccessible rural areas or in high
population areas in urban areas? That's where innovation comes in play, and
companies like Zipline are doing this effectively," Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao,
the Managing Director of Resource Mobilisation at GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance
told delegates at the African CEO Forum in Kigali on Monday.
Zipline is a California-based company that uses drones to
deliver blood and medical supplies to the far-flung regions in Rwanda and
Stakeholders point out that while the novelties are needed,
political and business interests undermine their adoption and implementation.
“From my experience, there is a lot of resistance to innovation
in healthcare because of political and business interests. A lot of businesses
benefit from bad policies to steal drugs, sell counterfeit drugs, as well as to
make it hard for patients to make settlement claims,” said Michael Macharia,
the CEO of SevenSeas Technologies.
“That is why we need this discussion at the forefront of
regional and continental integration. Millions of people are affected but
little emphasis is being placed on innovation in the health sector,” he added.
The Kenyan firm has developed information systems for hospitals
that help to improve service delivery and track movement of medicines and
According to the World Health Organisation, healthcare in Africa
has improved especially with mortality rate falling by 37 percent between 2000
and 2015, morbidity due to malaria also declined sharply by 66 percent, while
life expectancy improved by six percent.
However, experts argue that much of the progress is not
sustainable because it has been achieved through donations and aid from
international organisations and rich countries.
“Africa still has a 10-year lower life expectancy than the
global average. Progress has been made but there is still much work to be done.
Accelerating this work needs new approaches through digital solutions along
important primary healthcare dimensions to improve the quality of healthcare
while reducing its cost,” Amit Thakker, the Chairman of Africa Healthcare
He also called on governments to invest heavily in the
protection of healthcare data systems from the growing threat of hackers and
Africa represents 54 percent of the global communicable disease
burden, according to the WHO, yet majority of the countries lack sufficient
qualified physicians or the infrastructure to deal with the outbreaks of
epidemics such as Ebola and cholera.
This challenge, experts say, should be taken head on by
developing policies that incentivise the easy flow of technological flows
across Africa, which are specifically geared towards serving the healthcare.