Experts in public health have urged African countries to begin early investments in digital health, disclosing that telemedicine will be the next big boom in the continent in the next five to eight years.
Amit Thakker, President, Africa Healthcare Federation (AHF), stated that there is a bulge looking to enter digital space in the health care and advised governments and policy makers to move quickly to absorb them, so as to stimulate the right growth at the right time that will also lead to entrepreneurship in the youthful population.
Thakker spoke at a virtual Workshop on “The Key role of a “healthy” Health Sector in Sustainable Economic Development” organised by Omnia Health Lice Africa.
While sharing experiences of Kenya on telemedicine, Thakker disclosed that outpatient consultation has grown by 17 percent in the last 6 months and is projected to grow by 60 percent by next year.
He also disclosed that Kenya have developed a new law known as the Health Act, to prevent counterfeit telemedicine providers and counterfeit tele health organisation who might want to take advantage of the situation.
The president said Kenya is willing to share it with other African countries. He urged other African countries to take a cue from the country.
“We can learn and share from each other in Africa, Africans can learn from Africans, not necessarily abroad, we don’t necessarily need to travel.
“I believe that investment in digital health is a great option. It is not only telemedicine and telehealth, but there are many remote patient monitoring tools, there will be things to do around data analytics and AI related needs that we have,” he said.
Thakker also informed that Public Private Partnership will be instrumental in driving the needed investment in the sector, change the demographics, life expectancy and Socio-Economic growth, but decried trust deficit which he said needs to be addressed.
Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, also speaking, noted that the private sector partnership has been very instrumental in Nigeria’s health care space, especially during the pandemic.
According to him, the most significant involvement is in the establishment of National emergency medical Ambulance system, NEMSAS; the first national Ambulance service to respond to medical emergencies, to reduce lives lost in emergencies by 50 percent
The minister said there are still more avenues to work with the private sector in strengthening health care.
Olusoji Adeyi, senior advisor for Human Development, World Bank, on his part spoke on the need for countries to make strategic investment through joint ventures with the private sector on local manufacturing following lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruptions in global supply chains.
There is pressure on the global supply chain and addressing it will require practical local production of those critical equipment and supplies, expansion of existing capacities, development of new production sources, understanding the supply constraint and intensifying suppliers to enhance the supply using working capital or other forms of debt financing.
“Covid-19 has reinforced that pandemic prevention and response are national security matters. So, perhaps what we are looking at is the solutions that are purely in the private sector, the role of the government is in making it simpler to do business.”
He disclosed that the biggest constraint to local manufacturing of medical supplies and equipment in the continent is failure to get quality certification, because local manufacturers have not been able to attract domestic or foreign capital.
“It is not farfetched for a government to team up, perhaps at sub regional level, with industries to invest in the product ion of these services to attain a certain international quality standard
“If they are willing to do that, it opens up opportunity for people to crowd in investors and investment from outside the continent itself.”
In addition to production, Adeyi said there is also need to create a supply chain and storage hub in the region.” Therefore it will make sense to have a certain degree of what I will call strategic redundancy in the supply chain, so that in the event of a catastrophic or near catastrophic outbreak, you only need to cross borders within the African region instead of crossing the pacific to get what you need.”