Looking after Africa’s health

Reem Leila , Tuesday 7 Jun 2022

Joint continental effort is needed to upgrade Africa’s health sector.

Looking after Africa s health
Al-Sisi touring the exhibition


This week Egypt hosted the first Africa Health ExCon, a major medical event on the continent. Held under the theme “Your Gate to Innovation and Trade”, the conference and exhibition hosted more than 350 companies from 102 countries. Nearly 2,000 delegates representing government health entities from Africa and the Middle East participated in the event to exchange views and expertise and work out solutions to health problems facing the continent.

During the conference, organised by the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement (UPA), attendants discussed means of increasing cooperation among African countries in healthcare as well as transferring Egyptian scientific expertise in managing and equipping hospitals, providing nursing services, and displaying the capabilities of Egyptian medical companies, from advanced devices to equipping hospitals and their analysis and radiology centres.

Egypt said it could receive African patients in Egyptian hospitals and set up one-day surgery hospitals with an initial target of seven to eight African countries.

During the conference, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announced that Egypt will donate 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to African countries in coordination with the African Union (AU).

Lwazi Manzi, head of the Secretariat of the AU Commission on Africa’s COVID-19 response, said the coronavirus drove African countries to jointly take robust steps to overcome the pandemic. It became a necessity to reorder priorities to meet the challenges of the pandemic outbreaks, Manzi said, adding that the AU’s commission on Africa’s Covid-19 response is keenly communicating with the presidents of African countries to jointly cooperate in handling such crises.

Deputy Director at Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Ahmed Ouma affirmed that African countries need to reach joint healthcare agreements, as global measures did not ensure adequate protection for all Africans against the pandemic. “It is about time for African countries to start discussions to reach a binding agreement to ensure better pandemic preparedness,” stressed Ouma.  

In his remarks, Al-Sisi encouraged medical cooperation among African countries, including pharmaceutical production, and invited international pharmaceutical firms to invest in Africa. Africa is a promising market, the president said, stressing that Africa’s youth represent 60-65 per cent of its population if not more, “so the future is in Africa”.

Only two per cent of pharmaceuticals are produced in Africa while more than 98 per cent are imported, Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said. He noted that health services were “not merely about hospitals and health staff, but an integrated mechanism involving education, roads, investment and political and economic stability”.

Strategic Advisor at the Saudi Ministry of Health Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Baqi also referred to the importance of education and training, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s efforts in planning, assessing demand, ensuring full preparation for supplying drugs, and injecting investments for medical supplies, as well as focusing on the importance of the pharmaceutical sector.

During the second day of the conference a cooperation protocol was signed between the General Authority for Healthcare Accreditation and Regulation (GAHAR) and the Arab Hospitals Federation (AHF) to promote the accreditation process for healthcare facilities. The protocol aims to draw up a cooperation framework between GAHAR and AHF to unify their efforts towards promoting the quality of healthcare services in Arab and African regions through developing a mutual hospital performance assessment model, and launching an awareness campaign for promoting the importance of green hospitals as well as eco-friendly healthcare practices.

The protocol will also contribute to raising the efficiency of medical personnel to ensure the safety of patients, enhancing infection control in hospitals and medical centers, and promoting the digital transition of the health sector in the Arab region. It will deliver specialised training for hospitals on the fulfillment of accreditation conditions, as well as professional training on adopting a quality system for healthcare services.

Egypt’s advances in its medical sector under President Al-Sisi were reviewed during the conference, including the adoption of a universal health insurance system and the elimination of Hepatitis C as well as other illnesses such as cancer and liver and kidney failure. The conference also displayed the infrastructure upgrades of various government and private hospitals that helped them fight the coronavirus pandemic.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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