Health reforms are key to economic recovery in Africa – Hott

Amadou Hott – Senegal Minister of Finance

Amadou Hott, Senegalese Minister of Finance says Africa had to go through the COVID-19 crisis to realise the importance of investing in strong health systems and pharmaceutical companies that can produce medicines locally. He was speaking during a round table discussion on, “the Future of health and Economic Resiliency” at the ECA Conference of Ministers (CoM2022) in Dakar, Senegal.

Mr. Hott said that the Senegalese President, Macky Sall, had made implementation of strong health reforms a top priority, allocating 200 billion FCFA to tangible reforms. The first phase involved coming up with health guidelines under four pillars: the governance to bring about paradigm shift; a business-oriented model which is result based; improved renumeration; complete digitalization of the system and an efficient pharmaceutical value chain that is guided by a pharmaceutical regulatory agency.

The planning phase was followed by concrete measures that included: mobilizing 10% of health expenditure from the private sector; hiring more and better qualified health personnel; investing in pharmaceutical companies to producing medicines locally and overhauling the whole health infrastructure that dates from independence.

Algerian minister of pharmaceutical industry, Lotfi Benbahmed, said his country has put in place health regulations to ensure that all drugs are produced locally. “We are advocating to buy medicines produced in Africa and when there is a health crisis, we can have easy access to drugs. One of the reasons we have no vaccine for Malaria is because we are not able to produce the vaccine in Africa.  We have made great strides, now three out of four drugs are manufactured locally, and this generates revenue and prevents losing local health expertise that tend to go and work abroad when there are no employment opportunities”.

The State Minister of Planning, Ministry of Finance and Planning of Uganda, Amos Lugoolobi said “We also must address the question of how best to help the under-privileged population to have access to proper health systems”.

“Africa has a young population that we can turn into riches, but this also means since the population is young, we must invest into a significant young rate of human capital in education and health. In Uganda the biggest government budget is human capital. This leads to challenges such as malaria, we need to come together to eradicate malaria. Africa needs to invest more on prevention, which will help Africa. We need to put in place right fiscal strategy in tax collection and monitoring to generate resources. This is the way forward and we can learn from Egypt and other Africa countries who have started improving their tax systems”, she added.

Amadiou Dialllo from Africa Solidarity Fund spoke about funding of health project in Africa and the link between health and economic growth.  “66 billion dollars is needed for health funding in Africa, we need to catalyze private funds to ensure that our countries have ownership of private and public health enterprises, and these efforts should be part of economic growth and health creation”.

The United Nations perspective was given by UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima. She informed the meeting that twenty years ago the Abuja declaration promised to put 20% of their budget in heath and improve health facilities. Unfortunately, little progress has been made and the crisis has forced the continental to face reality and the impact of lack of action 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 for Local Youth Corner in Cameroon, whose organisation produced hand sanitizers and masks from prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic, said “Over 100 000 hand sensitizers were distributed for free during the crisis to the government, youth should be the answer to Africa’s rising need for innovative health solutions”.

The session brought together a panel of eight including Ministers of Health, pharmaceutical experts, the UNAIDS and Youth entrepreneurs to discuss post-covid19 health strategies and share best practices from countries that are already implementing tangible health reforms that are already changing the economic spectrum of their respective countries.

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