Dakar, Senegal, 16th May, 2022 (ECA) – Amadou Hott, Senegalese Minister of Finance, says Africa had to go through the COVID-19 crisis to realize the importance of investing in strong health systems and societies pharmaceutical companies capable of producing drugs locally. He was speaking during a panel discussion on “the future of health and economic resilience” at the ECA Conference of Ministers (CoM2022) in Dakar, Senegal.
Mr Hott said Senegalese President Macky Sall had made implementing strong health reforms a top priority, allocating 200 billion FCFA for tangible reforms. The first phase involved developing health guidelines under four pillars: governance to bring about a paradigm shift; a business-oriented and results-based model; improved compensation; full system digitization and an efficient pharmaceutical value chain guided by a pharmaceutical regulatory agency.
The planning phase was followed by concrete measures including: the mobilization of 10% of health expenditure from the private sector; hiring more and better qualified health personnel; invest in pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs locally and overhaul the entire health infrastructure that dates back to independence.
Algeria’s Pharmaceutical Industry Minister Lotfi Benbahmed said his country had put in place health regulations to ensure that all drugs were produced locally. “We advocate buying medicines produced in Africa and when there is a health crisis, we can have easy access to medicines. One of the reasons we don’t have a malaria vaccine is that we are unable to produce the vaccine in Africa. We have made great progress, now three out of four medicines are made locally, which generates income and avoids the loss of local health expertise which tends to go to work abroad when there is no job opportunities”.
Minister of State for Planning, Uganda Ministry of Finance and Planning, Amos Lugoolobi, said, “We also need to address the question of how best to help the disadvantaged population to gain access to appropriate health”.
“Africa has a young population that we can turn into wealth, but that also means that since the population is young, we need to invest in significant young human capital in education and health. In Uganda, the biggest government budget is human capital. This leads to challenges such as malaria, we must unite to eradicate malaria. Africa must invest more in prevention, which will help Africa. We must put in place a good tax strategy in collecting and controlling taxes to generate resources. This is the way forward and we can learn from Egypt and other African countries that have started improving their tax systems,” she added.
Amadiou Dialllo from Africa Solidarity Fund spoke about financing health projects in Africa and the link between health and economic growth. “$66 billion is needed for health financing in Africa, we need to catalyze private finance to ensure that our countries own private and public health enterprises, and these efforts should be part of economic growth and the creation of health”.
The UN perspective was presented by UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. She informed the meeting that twenty years ago, the Abuja declaration promised to spend 20% of their budget on health and improve health facilities. Unfortunately, little progress has been made and the crisis has forced the continent to face the reality and impact of inaction on the poor segment of the population who are forced to pay for health care.
The event concluded with a call for youth employment in the health sector. Achaleke Christian Leke, executive director of Local Youth Corner in Cameroon, whose organization produced hand sanitizers and masks from prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic, said: “Over 100,000 hand sensitizers were distributed free of charge during the crisis in government, young people should be the answer to Africa’s growing need for innovative health solutions”.
The session brought together an eight-person panel including ministers of health, pharmaceutical experts, UNAIDS and young entrepreneurs to discuss post-covid19 health strategies and share best practices from countries already implementing reforms tangible health outcomes that are already altering the economic spectrum of their respective countries.
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