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Investing in Africans’ Health

African leaders continue to discuss their countries’ health-care systems in terms of funding gaps. In fact, those gaps will close only when Africa is viewed as an investment destination, not a foreign-aid recipient.

LOMÉ – Africa’s health sector represents a massive investment opportunity, estimated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to be worth $66 billion annually. Yet African leaders and donors continue to discuss Africa’s health-care systems in terms of funding gaps. In fact, those gaps will close only when Africa is viewed as an investment destination, not a foreign-aid recipient.

A strong health-care system is a prerequisite for economic development. But the development aid to Africa that is designated for health is not predictable enough to sustain the kinds of long-term investments that are needed.

Importing pharmaceuticals, for example, costs Africa an estimated $14 billion annually. Creating the conditions for local pharmaceutical manufacturing would not only slash that bill; it would also result in the creation of 16 million jobs. (This is yet another reason to support the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA.) Yet aid is often promised according to three-year timelines, with no guarantee that it will actually be delivered when needed to fund planned programs.

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