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Realizing the Promise of African Health Care

There is reason for cautious optimism that a transformation of African health care is beginning to take hold, driven by government-led efforts to achieve universal health coverage, market-led consolidation of health-care providers, major private-equity investors, and digital technology.

NAIROBI – The quality and accessibility of health care have long been known to have a disproportionate impact on the economic and emotional wellbeing of entire societies. The 54 countries that make up the continent of Africa are no different. Like many of their emerging-market peers, these countries have been plagued by a combination of high disease rates and insufficient resources to tackle the health burden. But, after ten years of mobilizing more than $300 million for health-care providers across multiple African countries, I am cautiously optimistic that a transformation is beginning to take hold.

Four essential elements are driving the continent’s health-care transformation: government-led efforts to achieve universal health coverage; market-led consolidation of health-care providers; major private-equity investors; and digital technology.

Political leaders across Sub-Saharan Africa generally agree that government-sponsored insurance is the foundation of universal health care. In Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa, at least 60 million people now have some form of health insurance, according to health ministry data and a 2018 global analysis of Sub-Saharan Africa’s insurance markets. That number is set to grow significantly. As governments reimagine their role, shifting from care provider to payer, they could bring quality health care to millions. But much more needs to be done to make health insurance universal, comprehensive, and efficient.

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