[Column] Eyong Ebai: Now is the time to transform healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa
The tremendous engagement, activity and positive outcomes emerging from the recently held Africa Health ExCon in Cairo, Egypt reflect a broader moment of opportunity as the stars align to boost healthcare infrastructure development across Sub-Saharan Africa.
At the event, we saw the coming together of multilateral funding entities, non-profit organizations, governments, private healthcare providers, civil society groups, and financial institutions with a shared vision and commitment to healthcare development on the continent.
That momentum is limiting the headwinds of the Covid pandemic and government financial restraints, global inflation, logistics logjams, and complementing the tailwinds found in the tremendous financial commitments from development agencies.
Institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the African Export-Import Bank have made significant allocations of concessionary loans and grants – ranging into the billions of dollars – to help expand healthcare infrastructure to communities across the continent.
At the same time, government initiatives in key markets are expanding, with some already coming to fruition with the build out of intensive care units, development and renovation of secondary public hospitals, and construction of specialty hospitals.
This reflects commitment to putting in place world-class multi-layered healthcare infrastructure in the public and private sectors. This approach recognizes primary healthcare as the foundational enabling platform for delivery of better care to patients.
Digitization is an exciting trend helping to expand healthcare access and quality. This has now gained much wider and faster acceptance as seen in the Covid era. It is helping us communicate faster with customers, which in turn means faster action on approving projects, there implementation and completion.
Even more importantly, digitization of healthcare infrastructure means bringing expertise and resources to patients and communities that might not have previously had those resources available, another important source of improved patient outcomes in rural areas.
Another component of the regional optimism is the emergence of private healthcare groups looking to expand across borders. We are seeing a proliferation of African healthcare groups bringing their expertise to other countries on the continent. Companies from Egypt, the GCC and South Africa are setting up new facilities or acquiring existing entities in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Zambia and Kenya.
Localization supports healthcare ambitions
GE Healthcare is the only international healthcare technology provider with a 50-year history and continent-wide footprint in Africa. We are well positioned to support public and private sector customers as they bring their healthcare priorities to completion. With our local teams and decades of experience, we understand the nuances, challenges and solutions required to unlock and engage the local and global healthcare ecosystems.
With more than 1,000 GE Healthcare employees on the continent, and up to 95% of them from the local communities we serve, we have a deeply localized ecosystem of sales managers, field engineers, and specialists working to world-class standards to bring technologies that help practitioners identify illness earlier and expand treatment options.
The result is more rapid diagnostic and treatment, whether in district hospitals or specialist centers, which translates to better outcomes and more sustainable, less intensive demand on healthcare systems. At the same time, when required, we can tap into our global centers of excellence to access global experts.
An important aspect of this momentum is we have the opportunity to leapfrog healthcare technologies to catch up to more mature markets. Rather than a step by step approach from x-ray to MRI to CT to PET/CT to onsite cyclotrons, Africa countries can jump directly to the most advanced care technologies – with all the benefits that offers, patients and providers.
GEHC supports HC ecosystem
With all that is happening in the sector, it is important to recognize, both globally and in Africa, that nobody can build the future of healthcare alone. GE Healthcare is helping customers pull together all the key players in the healthcare ecosystem, including the financing, development agencies, commercial banks, multilateral financing entities, project managers, architects, contractors, and technology providers.
This is crucial, because while the money is increasingly available, connecting capital and providers remains a challenge. We help by supporting providers with feasibility studies and business plans to make projects bankable.
Maintain the momentum
As Africa Health ExCon demonstrated, this is a truly exciting time to be in the healthcare industry in Africa. With all the key participants, from governments, to development banks to private players and international technology providers like GE Healthcare, pulling in the same direction, the opportunity to transform healthcare in Africa has never been closer.
Let’s build on the momentum from the Cairo event to deliver healthcare infrastructure across Africa that can produce a brighter world for all its citizens.