• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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The power of partnerships in strengthening basic healthcare in Africa

Nigeria’s race to tech-powered medicine

For decades, millions of Africans have struggled with limited access to basic healthcare. This remains a major problem holding back the continent’s development and economic growth. While a lack of resources makes things difficult for governments, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are emerging as a breakthrough solution, offering a way for governments and businesses to work together to improve healthcare delivery across Africa.

Q: “Businesses not only help create a healthier Africa but also open up the possibility of having a more productive workforce and more customers by investing in well-structured PPPs.”

The power of partnerships:

PPPs combine public and private muscle to accelerate healthcare infrastructure development. This could involve investments in vital medical equipment, improved facilities, and enhanced health workforce training.

My experience leading successful healthcare partnerships in Nigeria has shown the powerful impact of PPPs firsthand. A programme I led saw a dramatic increase in people using healthcare services right away. Visits to the outpatient department at two primary healthcare centres shot up by 91 percent. Even more importantly, visits for prenatal care skyrocketed by 247 percent, and skilled births increased by 96 percent from 2022 to 2023. These results show that PPPs can effectively address critical healthcare needs, leading to healthier communities, a more productive workforce, and a stronger economy.

PPPs extend beyond physical infrastructure. Think about a tech company partnering with the government to offer remote consultations to patients in underserved areas through a phone app. This can greatly improve healthcare access, especially in areas with few doctors.

Challenges and considerations:

While PPPs have a lot of potential, they need careful planning and clear steps to follow. Being transparent and accountable is important to make sure the money is used well and that high-quality care remains the main goal. Also, it’s important that the goals of private businesses align with public health goals.

Feasibility studies ensure PPPs are built on a solid foundation. These involve conducting thorough market research to understand the actual demand for the services, cost analysis to guarantee the project is financially sustainable in the long run, and impact evaluation to measure the expected social and health outcomes the project aims to achieve.

Finding the right partners is key. Look for expertise and experience that fit well together. For example, a tech company could bring its digital health tools, while an NGO could contribute experience working in communities that need help the most. Don’t forget to consider both the risks and the rewards. Come up with clear agreements that show how financial risks and rewards are shared between public and private partners. Being honest and fair is important to building trust. Think about new models where profits are shared based on meeting goals that everyone agrees on beforehand.

Addressing potential downsides:

Safeguards are needed to ensure PPPs prioritise public health. Cost overruns can happen, so business leaders must be vigilant against excessive pricing. Innovative financing mechanisms, like sliding fee scales or targeted subsidies, are crucial to keeping services affordable for low-income populations.

Secondly, strong regulations are needed to help keep costs down, ensure underserved communities can access services, and have someone independent oversee things. This oversight makes sure high-quality healthcare is delivered and that public funds are used well. Getting the community on board is just as important. Involving them early on makes sure the project addresses their specific needs. Regular communication with community representatives throughout the whole project can further strengthen the partnership.

Leveraging external support:

Global support strengthens PPPs. Blended finance, grants, and loan guarantees from international organisations can help mitigate financial risks for African governments. NGOs can provide valuable technical expertise through knowledge transfer and best practices in areas like feasibility studies, contract development, and monitoring PPP performance.

A brighter future for African healthcare:

PPPs can transform healthcare in Africa. Therefore, a strategic plan where everyone works together using the strengths of both the public and private sectors is key. Business leaders have a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of making this change happen. Businesses not only help create a healthier Africa but also open up the possibility of having a more productive workforce and more customers by investing in well-structured PPPs. The return on investment (ROI) for businesses can be significant. Furthermore, by expanding access to healthcare, PPPs contribute to a growing middle class, creating a larger group of customers for businesses to serve.

The GSK-Amref Health Africa-Tanzania Partnership exemplifies the power of collaboration. This programme focused on equipping clinics with their most valuable asset: a skilled workforce. GSK shared its expertise with Amref through training and mentorship initiatives. This collaboration significantly improved the skills and knowledge of Tanzanian healthcare workers, making them better prepared to deliver quality care in existing facilities and ultimately paving the way for a smoother transition and better service delivery in any new clinics established through future PPPs.

Businesses, governments, and communities can use PPPs to fix the healthcare gap in Africa and enable the continent to reach its full potential. The time to act is now.

Ota Akhigbe is a result-oriented leader with over 15 years of experience driving impactful change in healthcare access, infrastructure development, and financial inclusion. She is a recognized expert in public-private partnerships and is passionate about leveraging strategic collaborations to address Africa’s development challenges.