How to lower costs in African healthcare and make it more accessible

Celebrating African leadership in healthcare

Africa’s healthcare woes (or challenges) can be solved by Africans.  This is the premise behind a new book on leadership in healthcare in Africa, “African Health Leaders: Making Change and Claiming the Future,edited by Lord Nigel Crisp (Independent Member of the House of Lords and Global Advisor to KPMG) and Dr Francis Omaswa. The book brings together the collective experience from 3 generations of African health leaders.

“Most accounts of health and health care in Sub Saharan Africa are written by foreigners,” says Lord Crisp (Independent Member of the House of Lords and Global Advisor to KPMG). “This book redresses the balance. It is written by Africans who have themselves led improvements in their own countries and describes many of the features of leadership, policy and implementation which have been involved. It is about Africans re-claiming their place as leaders in health.”

The book, first and foremost recognises and celebrates African leadership in health. Secondly, it describes in practical terms how African Leaders have successfully improvised and innovated, building on the strengths of their communities, to improve the health of their people. Thirdly, it sets out a vision for the future which shows how a new relationship can be created with international partners and demonstrates how insights and experiences from Africa can help improve health globally.

Health leaders in Sub Saharan African countries face some of the most demanding challenges anywhere in the world. Disease, poverty, the legacy of colonialism including the post-colonial power imbalance and, all too often, conflict and political instability, combine to make improving health and health care extraordinarily difficult. Nevertheless, in chapter after chapter, health leaders describe how they have made progress. There are many lessons here for the rest of the world.

Author after author has also shown how health relates to everything else in their society – from education and the environment to the economy and future prosperity of the country.

“Health has to be part of all policies, integrated into the national poverty reduction and development plans,” explains Lord Crisp. “Others have had to argue, as Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the South African Minister of Health, describes in Chapter 18 that “You soon won’t have enough people to build the roads or other investments unless you tackle HIV/AIDS”. Health can’t be treated just as a separate department or enterprise. It affects and is affected by everything else.”

The book contains contributions from authors from 14 African countries; 13 are men and 10 women. Most trained as doctors but there are also nurses, physiotherapists, policy makers, administrators, sociologists, lawyers and scientists. Five are or have been Ministers, including a Prime Minister, there are two WHO Regional Directors and five have held very senior positions in regional and global organisations. In addition there are quotations from a number of other leading Africans.

All are Africans, and all but two live in Africa today. Most, however, have trained or worked abroad, reflecting the lack of opportunities in their own countries. Others have been in exile abroad at times of struggle either against foreign colonialists or as a result of national politics and at least one has been a political prisoner. Their life experiences are very different from those of their peers in most of the rest of the world.

Each of the chapters are written by the leaders themselves except for the account of work in South African, which is based on conversations with the senior leaders in the country including Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the health minister. In addition, the penultimate chapter is a composite of views from younger and future leaders about their experiences and their hopes and fears for the future.

The book will be launched at KPMG’s offices in Cape Town MSC House, 1 Mediterranean Street, Foreshore on 1 October and will be on sale at Adam’s Booksellers. Speakers at the event will include the editors, Dr Luis Sambo the WHO director for Africa and other authors.    

David Okwara

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