News: UN High Level Dialogue – Africa’s Health & Finance: Pathways to Economic Growth & Prosperity

Alyssa GovindanNews

A call for businesses to step up in health and take bold action

 “Health is everything, including wealth,” was a rallying statement from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Republic of Nigeria, at the recent high level dialogue hosted by GBCHealth, the Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The event, which took place at the United Nations on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), brought together African heads of state, corporate CEOs, and heads of UN agencies to discuss the findings of a preliminary report on “Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa,” and to exchange valuable ideas and knowledge on strengthening private sector involvement and investment in Africa’s health.

The preliminary findings from the forthcoming report highlight the issue that neither government nor existing public-private partnerships (PPPs) are effective enough, and that existing PPPs disproportionately focus on a small number of countries. The preliminary report recommends a new model, one in which PPPs prioritize the most significant disease burden and broaden their scope to benefit the health of the whole continent, which is deemed critical to driving long-term economic growth in Africa.  

The report also notes that there is a robust link between improved health outcomes and economic growth, with considerable evidence that raising the health of populations increases labor productivity, reduces absenteeism at school and work, and lowers catastrophic healthcare expenses. Further, improvements in life expectancy at birth, child mortality rates and maternal mortality rates are linked with growth in GDP per capita.

“African businesses and governments are realizing that investing in Africa’s health is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business and for government,” said Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Co -Chair, GBCHealth and Founder and Chair, African Initiative for Governance. “If we’re able to galvanize a new era of cooperation and improve the overall well-being of this young, fast-growing continent, we’ll create economic growth for all Africans.”

Halima Dangote, Executive Director of Dangote Industries Limited, and daughter of Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group & Chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation, delivered remarks on her father’s behalf. The remarks discussed his motivation as a businessman and human being for improving the well being and quality of life for people in Africa. He addressed the private sector’s unique capacity to mobilize its resources and innovation to strengthen health systems and save lives, and he called on continued and enhanced leadership from businesses on the issue. He also highlighted the importance of the new African Business Coalition for Health platform to help strategically mobilize private sector resources, expertise and innovation to strengthen health systems and save lives across the continent.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, joined the discussion. She spoke about the importance of unlocking and leveraging the tools the private sector has to deliver healthcare services through sustainable finance. “Much of education and much of health is not just in a bad place, it’s in crisis,” she said. “People are faced with choiceless choices, for instance, having to choose health or water. We need solid institutions to be able to deliver services.”

Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and GBCHealth Board director, spoke about the need to be creative in terms of stretching private sector capital for advancing health and economic growth. “I’m very concerned as we sit here today, but heartened by the title of this dialogue, called Africa’s Health & Finance. I don’t think going forward that we can separate health from finance.  I’m so pleased for ABCHealth and the work that’s going on.  I’m proud of those from the private sector who are stepping up to invest capital on the highest risk equity side so that we can leverage that with the traditional donor grants going forward and come up with the most creative solutions.”

“Africa’s population bulge and its abundance of young people is a competitive asset,” said Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary, UNECA. “This asset, however, must not become a fiscal burden by crowding in private finance to sustainably share the cost of a healthy Africa.”

H.E. Faure Gnassingbé, President, Togolese Republic, noted that task sharing and task shifting has been used to improve quality of care across public and private facilities alike, and the public-private partnerships that have ensued have further improved the quality of care across the health system.

Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister, Republic of Namibia noted that a country can’t industrialize without a healthy society and that we must stop looking at healthcare as a charitable cause, but recognize it as a profitable business that should be encouraged.

UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem noted that overcrowded, understaffed and undersupplied health systems were the biggest threat to the realization of both Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063. Health financing requires an optimum mix of efforts from households, the public sector, private sector stakeholders and the donor community, if the continent were to realize its demographic dividend.

Patrick Khulekani Dlamini, CEO and Managing Director, Development Bank of Southern Africa, further noted that we have an opportunity to leverage technology to leapfrog health advancements.

Other leaders, all of whom brought unique perspectives from their experiences in African governments, NGOs and the private sector, each highlighted the importance of financing healthcare and promoting collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to find sustainable solutions. Click here for full program.

“The dialogue was a much-needed call-to-action for the African private sector as evidenced by the research,” said Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group & Chairman, Aliko Dangote Foundation. “The best way to move Africa forward is for businesses to step up in health and take bold action”.

The event, titled “Africa’s Health and Financing: Pathways to Economic Growth and Prosperity,” focused on private sector involvement and investment in Africa’s healthcare.  GBCHealth, Aliko Dangote Foundation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, jointly hosted the dialogue at the United Nations on September 27th on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.  The dialogue will inform revisions to the report ahead of its launch at the Africa Business: Health Forum on February 12, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the margins of the African Union Summit.

Interviews on improving African health:

Amina Muhammed 

William Roedy

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede

Vera Songwe 


Alyssa GovindanNews: UN High Level Dialogue – Africa’s Health & Finance: Pathways to Economic Growth & Prosperity