DEVELOPMENT TOPICS: Health
Less than half of Africa’s citizens (52%) do not have access to adequate healthcare and, although the continent carriers 23% of the global disease burden, Africa receives only 1% of global health expenditure.
This has a major impact on development in Africa. Although life expectancy has increased, thanks to the management of malaria and reproductive health, other health challenges remain – for example, maternal and infant mortality are facing setbacks.
Africa hopes to achieve universal health coverage, but the funding gap makes this unlikely. If the continent hopes to meet the health targets of outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, it will need greater support from a variety of stakeholders, including the private sector.
Company support for health initiatives
The private sector already finances around 60% of all health expenditure in Africa, and although it largely ensures that wealthy citizens have access to good-quality healthcare, it also serves underserved rural communities.
This support has proved vital for improved health and wellbeing on the continent. Major benefits of investment in healthcare include improved mortality rates, better nutrition, and more economically productive citizens that place less of a financial burden on the state.
The private sector fill gaps in public healthcare through financial investment, vocational and skills training, educational opportunities such as bursaries and scholarships, improvements to infrastructure, and vital research.
The response to the Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic revealed many of Africa’s weaknesses when it comes to healthcare, but also some of its strengths. Because African governments have experience with managing infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola, Marburg and HIV, African Union ministers of health quickly adopted a joint strategy to manage the spread of Covid-19.
They collaborated with the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa-CDC), which was set up in 2017 to strengthen Africa’s ability to respond to outbreaks. However, their efforts were hampered by the slow roll-out of vaccines as well as vaccine hesitancy on the continent. By December 2022, only 27% of Africans had been vaccinated.
Africa received only about 6% of the global percentage of Covid-19 vaccines, although it has 17% of the world’s population. Vaccine inequity is but one of the challenges Africa faces as it attempts to source medications and medical technology for the continent.