Corporate Council on Africa Annual Summit Highlights Future of Health through Universal Health Coverage

Corporate Council on Africa Annual Summit Highlights Future of Health through Universal Health Coverage

 {Photo: MSH/Ashleigh Cooper}Panelists (from left) Jemal Mohammed, Director, Leadership Management and Governance Project, MSH; Tarek Rabah, Area Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Astra-Zeneca; and H.E. Dr. Kestebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; and moderator Jeffrey Sturchio, CEO, Rabin Martin; at the Future of Health in Africa session.Photo: MSH/Ashleigh Cooper

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) joined more than 1,000 attendees, including global and local businesses and governments, at the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)’s 10th Biennial US-Africa Business Summit, hosted in partnership with the African Union and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, this week. Established in 1993 to promote business and investment between the US and nations of Africa, CCA serves as a neutral, trusted intermediary connecting its members with essential government and business leaders. MSH joined the CCA as a member for the first time this year. Representatives from MSH Ethiopia and the US attended the summit.

Healthcare is growing and changing rapidly in Africa, and the demand for quality healthcare is creating opportunities for business investment and engagement. The Summit's Health track focused on the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals; how public/private partnerships between businesses, NGOs, and governments can address the challenges and opportunities; and the importance of building resilient health systems and healthy workforces.  

Jemal Mohammed, director, MSH Ethiopia, Leadership, Management and Governance Project, participated with the Ethiopian Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, and Astra-Zeneca’s Tarek Rabah, area vice president, Middle East and Africa, on a well-attended plenary session entitled, "The Future of Health in Africa: Building Resilience to Achieve Universal Health Coverage."  The discussion, moderated by Jeffrey Sturchio, chief executive officer of Rabin Martin, focused on strengthening health systems to withstand crises, like Zika and Ebola, but also to create integrated systems that build on the progress made against communicable disease like HIV and AIDS and TB. 

Mohammed addressed the need to create resilience through the lens of human resources, and how Africa is struggling not just with a deficit of health workers, but also with limited leadership, management and governance skills to manage that workforce.

H.E. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu provided an impressive account of Ethiopia's ongoing transformation of its health system, from a heavily centralized system to a more federal, state-run system, and a move through a Health Extension Program where "health is the responsibility of every family." H.E. Minister Admasu said that the most important pillar is the community—the people owning their own health. That is the "backbone" of a resilient health system.

In the last five years, Ethiopia has made significant investment in is health care system, building 300 new hospitals, one in every district; opening 30 new medical schools, graduating 3000 doctors this year; and creating an entirely new financing plan through a community-based health insurance scheme, now in 200 districts. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health plans to reach 80 percent of its population in four years, and they are moving towards 100 percent coverage of their people, to accomplish Universal Health Coverage. Ethiopia has also created a for-profit health supplies company, that has stockpiled essential medicines and is selling them through a pooled system.  

When asked what the private sector and NGOs could do, H.E. Minister Admasu said that a country has to "own its own health system". That said, according to Admasu, Ethiopia engaged with many partners, like MSH, to create the new Health Sector Transformation Plan for the next five years, and certainly will engage with and appreciate the partnership with corporations and NGOs to help implement that plan.

Patricia Bland Nicklin, MBA, is the vice president of Global Partnerships, Marketing and Communications of MSH.