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Technology is a key driver to overcome healthcare challenges in Africa

February 18, 2016 • East Africa, Healthcare, North Africa, Southern Africa, Top Stories, West Africa

Healthcare Africa

Mobile technology can address some of the biggest health challenges in Africa.

Healthcare in Africa differs widely, depending on the country and also the region—those living in urban areas are more likely to receive better health care services than those in rural or remote regions.  Many communities lack clean water and proper sanitation facilities, particularly in rural areas.  This means that illnesses caused by poor hygiene, such as cholera and diarrhoea, are common in some countries.

Heavy demands on health care systems
Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS as well as diseases found mostly in African countries such as elephantiasis, leprosy, polio, helminthiasis and trachoma are rife. Furthermore, there are not enough health workers, hospitals and clinics in Africa. Some African countries lack basic equipment and have inadequate supplies of medicines. Half of Africans do not have access to essential drugs and disruption to daily life and damage to facilities caused by conflict, mean health clinics have an even greater struggle to offer services to local populations.  Diseases then take an even greater toll. Demands on health care systems are also increasing as non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise.

At a 2001 African Union (AU) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, African countries agreed to allocate 15% of their budgets to healthcare.  To date, only six countries have met this commitment.  Health experts now believe that even if the target is reached, 15% of a small budget is not sufficient to make major inroads into poor health.  Four of the six countries allocating 15% of their budget still spend only 14USD per capita on health.

Technology—a key driver to overcome healthcare challenges
Vuyani Jarana at Vodacom Business says that mobile technology can address some of the biggest health challenges in Africa. “We have developed a range of healthcare solutions using mobile technology specifically to bridge the gap,” he says. To achieve this and leapfrog the global health care systems, it is critical for technology and innovative solutions to be implemented across the continent.

For example, there are mobile applications to:
– Capture patient information making service records more accurate and easily accessible
– Remind patients when they are due back at a clinic for an immunisation visit
– Remind the clinic management to submit an update on stock levels, expiry dates, wastage and stock received.

Jarana believes that technology will be a key driver in helping the continent to overcome some of its biggest healthcare challenges.

Innovative funding mechanisms can provide much needed revenue
Funding remains a monumental problem. Under these difficult circumstances, it is imperative to create new and innovative sources of funding like innovative financing for development, to address the socio-economic development needs of the population, of which health is clearly an urgent priority. According to McKinsey & Company, “innovative” refers to finance mechanisms that might mobilise, govern, or distribute funds beyond traditional donor-country official development assistance (ODA).  New revenue streams will have to be identified to implement or scale up already-existing programmes to address the current health challenges.

The Group contribution
Innovative financing for development has the capability of generating significant amounts of revenue that could either replace or complement existing traditional methods of funding. For instance, innovative funding mechanisms implemented with the assistance of a revenue-assurance expert like Global Voice Group has generated an estimated USD 1.5 billion over the last 10 years, through micro-levies on international telecommunications services.  These revenue-generating opportunities empower African countries to take charge of their own socio-economic development, using their own resources and through the smart integration of ICTs.

Innovative Financing—a game changer for sustainable development
Several developing or emerging countries are already capitalising on innovative financing for development.  For instance, in Haiti, education is being funded through micro-charges on international telephone calls.  By June 2015, more than US$16 million had been generated, allowing the government to provide free quality education to 1.4 million Haitian children.

It is no exaggeration, then, to say that innovative financing for development is a real game changer for sustainable development.  The leveraging of international incoming calls as an innovative funding mechanism has become an important part of the economies of many African countries. However, to make this funding mechanism effective international incoming telecoms traffic must be accurately measured and a revenue-assurance solution put in place to prevent fraud.  GVG’s cutting edge telecommunications governance solutions have assisted many African countries to optimise the revenue generated by international incoming telephone traffic so as to ensure that both the local operators and the government receive their fair share of the revenue.

These revenues can be used to finance social projects like health and education and meet the respective countries’ specific development goals.  This paves the way to more sustainable models of society on the African continent.

Staff Writer



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