Family planning, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children, which includes the spacing and
timing of births and a woman’s right to decide if she wants to have children or not.
Conversation between government and private sector leaders with on forging strategic partnerships, and aligning corporate social responsibility with national development goals is key in the success of educating people on family planning in a country.
Recently, a panel session at the High-Level Private Sector Forum on Family Planning shed light on the potential pitfalls and investment opportunities related to the growing partnership between the Federal Government and the private sector in the arena of family planning.
An exploration of strategic private sector investments shaping the future of family planning, featuring distinguished high-level panels discussing innovative approaches and transformative collaborations.
The session also delved into the reasons why the private sector may not be fully engaged in family planning initiatives and discussed possible solutions to encourage their active participation.
Olawale Durosinmi-Eti, Chief of Party for the Total Market Approach (TMA) to HIV Prevention project in Nigeria, raised the issue of why the private sector might be hesitant to engage in family planning initiatives.
“One other thing that is limiting the participation of the private sector is the fact that there are private sector players who are willing to invest resources and they can see that the business is not profitable. And for me and a lot of organisations that have been in the NGO world, we need to acknowledge that Nigeria can not continue to provide free services to everybody,” he said.
Durosinmi-Eti emphasised the importance of private sector players understanding the significance of the challenges surrounding family planning. He explained that business-minded organisations need to comprehend the potential impact and returns on investment before committing their resources. Hence, it is vital to associate family planning with its numerous benefits beyond just population control.
“When we talk about what we need to do to encourage the private sector to participate in family planning programming;we have to make sure that they actually understand the enormity of the challenge we have around family planning,” he said.
“Because private sector players are business people and for them to invest their resources, they need to be able to understand the pathway to results from such investment. So even if they are going to do it as part of their corporate social responsibility, they need to be convinced that this has an impact on their business,” he said.
Another hindrance to private sector participation is that some business players are reluctant to invest resources when they perceive the family planning sector as unprofitable. Durosinmi-Eti stressed the need to segment the population based on their willingness and ability to pay for services instead of providing free services to everyone.
This approach would ensure that services reach those who truly need them but cannot afford to pay, while also encouraging those capable of paying to contribute financially to the cause.
During the discussion, Folasade Akinmusire, a seasoned Legal & Governance Practitioner, emphasised the importance of corporate governance in attracting private sector investment.
She suggested incorporating corporate governance policies and strategies focused on accountability and transparency to make family planning initiatives more appealing to organisations.
“The private sector is very purpose driven and one way to ensure that an organisation invests in an initiative and gets the required returns is the government structure that we put in place,”Akinmusire said.
“So for me I believe in incorporating corporate governance policies, corporate governance strategies that focus on accountability and transparency. This would fester the development that we want to see,” she said.
“We all heard Access bank say it was going to invest one percent of their turnover. So if I am investing that much, I need to know what is being done with my money and then that would encourage me to do more.
And then you also need to find some ways to award them, give them some tax incentives, there are so many ways to go about ensuring that the private sector and those that are playing remain, and those that are not in the field are captured. Because there are a lot of benefits, even for the private sector.
Sustainability reporting strategies could help track the impact of investments and provide incentives for continued support. It would also ensure that those who are dire need of this family planning intervention would not be left out.
“So how do we get it to the people who need it most? People need to sit down and re-strategise. You can not do that without data. So it is important to also incorporate sustainability reporting strategies into whatever the committee is doing, you have to have someone who is taking account of the data and information.
She stressed that private investors need to know what has been done with their money; for questions such as “What impact is my organisation making and then what incentives is the government giving to them?”
Akinmusire further revealed the unfair conditions and reasons following Nigeria’s unflattering rise in population. She stressed that children are put in harsh labour and are exploited by their parents for momentary gain.
“We have some industries where children use to mine in the mining industry. It is not attractive for parents to have so many children. Whether we like it or not, a lot of people are birthing so many children in some areas, so that they can go to the mining industry and work for their fathers and mothers. It should not be.
Akinmusire provided insight on what could be done to curb these excesses. She called for the government to intervene and for credible systems to be put in place in order to monitor the all round welfare of the next leaders of tomorrow.
“Government needs to come into that space and say there is a policy that states that any organisation, any mining field where we have children working, would inspire serious consequences. And it all comes down to that. Somebody has to be monitoring and tracking the whereabouts of our children, are they in school?”
She explained that these are some of the initiatives that would encourage the private sector to come in, “because we know that apart from ensuring that family planning is embedded in our society and ensuring that there is social economic development and growth, we are also fostering a well informed, well nurtured and expert workforce such that every child is in school. So these are some of the things that should be taken into consideration. Corporate governance will go a long way in ensuring that that is done; accountability, transparency and reporting,” Akinmusire said.
Oladapo A. Ladipo, President of the Association of Reproductive and Family Health, underscored the significance of public-private partnerships in family planning initiatives. He urged the private sector to invest in the production of family planning commodities, not only for Nigeria but also for export to neighbouring ECOWAS countries.
“Let me reinforce the importance of Public-private partnership, that is the best way forward and to ensure the private sector that they can make their money other than just contributing to the family planning initiative; by investing in the production of the family planning commodities,” Ladipo said.
Ladipo emphasised the monetary benefits this partnership would pose for both parties in the long run and the importance of ensuring that these commodities reach even the most remote clinics, suggesting the use of pharmacy outlets for distribution.
“The current administration is encouraging local production of health products. These health products are not only for Nigeria, they can export them to ECOWAS countries, by doing so they can make their profit. But for me personally, they need to assist the government, especially from the point of view of getting the products to the last mile,” he said.
“How do you get star beer to the crates, or coca cola? We need to partner with the private sector to get our commodities to all the clinics in the rural area. We need to use the pharmacy outlets, because if they know the commodities are there, both the men and the women will use them.”
Siting an amusing example, the veteran highlighted the demand for family planning commodities, citing a powerful example of students scrambling for condoms when made available after his lectures.
“When I lecture on family planning and I take a pack of condoms in the lecture room, I deliberately leave them and observe through the door. You can see the students scrambling for it. So the demand is there, it is getting to them.”
Ladipo concluded with a dire note of caution to Nigerians, urging serious steps to be taken for the sake of the country’s welfare and ultimate survival.
“We are in trouble, Nigeria is stressed, the globe is stressed and if we do not moderate our population growth with massive humanity and justice, then nature is going to do it for us, and nature is already doing it for us. You can see a nexus of underemployment, such is a recipe for radicalism and violent extremism that we are witnessing today,” he warned.
“We must do something about it and the private sector has a leadership role to ensure that the government can implement their policies,” he said.
The panel discussion concluded with a call for immediate action in family planning to address Nigeria’s stressed population growth. Private sector leadership, in partnership with the government, was seen as crucial in ensuring the successful implementation of policies and programs.
The High-Level Private Sector Forum on Family Planning offered valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities surrounding the partnership between the private sector and the government in family planning initiatives. By addressing these hurdles and leveraging strategies discussed during the panel session, Nigeria aims to integrate family planning more effectively into its healthcare system and achieve sustainable social and economic development.