(Biennial conference also sees WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus receive the AHAIC Africa Global Leadership Award for contributions to vaccine equity for poorer nations)
The fourth edition of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC 2021) came to a close today, marked by calls from a diverse group of stakeholders for greater cross-border and multi-sectoral collaboration to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa.
The 3-day virtual conference, which began on 8 March 2021 under the theme “Decade for Action: Driving Momentum to Achieve UHC in Africa”, attracted 3,000 participants logging in from 98 countries across the African continent and beyond, including high profile guests and speakers such as H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, among others.
Held against the backdrop of COVID-19 recovery efforts AHAIC 2021 provided a platform for representatives from the health sector, political leadership, development organisations, private sector, academia and civil society to explore the continent’s health challenges, identify opportunities and propose sustainable solutions for, and by, Africa.
Conversations on the COVID-19 vaccine, health financing, health systems strengthening, technology and innovation, youth engagement and gender equity in health leadership took centre stage, with speakers repeatedly calling for a unified, pan-African approach built on stronger political will and action to drive momentum towards achieving UHC in Africa by 2030.
Speaking when he officially opened the conference, President Kenyatta called for greater political will, collaboration and coordination among African nations to make UHC a reality, and highlighted the need for countries to focus on investment in primary health care, expand affordability and harness the innovativeness of youth to promote development and uptake of e-health solutions.
“Currently, about 600 million people across the African continent do not have access to health services. To address this, we must make increased investments in physical facilities, medical equipment, drugs, and trained personnel,” said President Kenyatta.
On vaccine equity, availability, affordability and delivery, stakeholders reiterated the need for Africa to urgently create its own capacity to manufacture and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, in response to heightened nationalism that has threatened to deny lower- and middle-income countries – many of them in Africa – access to the critical resource as developed countries race to stockpile the vaccine.
“In order to ensure vaccine equity, it is important that we build Africa’s manufacturing capacity. We have seen it with the COVID-19 pandemic, from personal protective equipment (PPE) to vaccines, lack of equity in distribution is affecting many developing countries that don’t have manufacturing capacity,” Dr. Tedros.
Other highlights from the convening included:
The launch of the State of UHC in Africa report by the independent AHAIC Commission, which outlines the challenges and opportunities faced by African countries on their journeys to UHC and provides a roadmap and recommendations to guide transformative, lasting health change on the continent.
The launch of the FutureProofing Healthcare Africa Sustainability Index by Roche. The index provides a unique overview of the status of 18 health systems across the continent and contains a ranking of countries based on 76 different measures split across 6 categories. It also unpacks its findings under 4 key themes: regional collaboration to encourage further innovation; using technology to speed up system-level changes and improve health delivery; re-prioritising health care spending to address system gaps and gender equality in health care.
Joint calls for the ratification of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) by African Union (AU) member states. AMA is a specialized agency of the AU charged with providing regulatory leadership to harmonize and strengthen regulatory systems, which govern the regulation of medicines and medical products on the African continent. The treaty for the AMA’s formation was adopted by the AU in February 2019 but is yet to be ratified by all 15 countries whose approvals are required before it can be fully established.
Presentation of the AHAIC Africa Global Leadership Award to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The award acknowledges African global health leaders who have been catalysts for positive change through worldwide health initiatives. Dr. Tedros was recognized for leading with courage and compassion during a time of intense global uncertainty, and for his contributions to ensuring that the world’s poorest, especially in Africa, have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Presentation of the Africa Health Leadership on COVID-19 Award, which recognizes stellar health leadership within Africa and was jointly awarded to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director, WHO Regional Office for Africa and Dr. John Nkengasong, Director, Africa CDC. Both recipients were recognized for their visionary leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, their support of African nations seeking to strengthen health systems to ensure access to critical interventions during the pandemic and their dedication to facilitating regional collaboration.
Presentation of the AHAIC UHC Journalism Award to Elizabeth Merab, a health journalist with Kenya’s Nation Media Group. Ms. Merab was celebrated for her consistent, balanced coverage of pertinent health issues covering topics such as maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, infectious and non-communicable diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. Her investigative pieces have led to the review of local health policies and contributed towards improving the quality of care at Kenya’s largest referral hospital.
Release of the 8 outcomes of AHAIC 2021, to be highlighted in more detail through an official communique reflecting the themes: Leadership, Accountability, Technology and Health Security. These outcomes are:
That we must reaffirm and commit to uphold health as a right of every person regardless of their socio-economic status, gender or age.
That political goodwill must match deliberate action for domestic financing and increased investments in health systems.
That African countries must strengthen emergency preparedness and health security to build back better and mitigate the adverse effects of future health emergencies.
That Primary Health Care as a cornerstone to the achievement of UHC must be strengthened.
That we must commit to uphold the right to lead and participate in the health development agenda and ensure gender transformative policies and meaningful engagement of Africa’s youth, for the attainment of UHC.
That UHC requires Pan-African collaboration and collective stakeholder engagement, governed by robust frameworks for public-private partnerships and unconventional partnerships.
That African countries are poised to harness innovation and digital technologies to strengthen access to quality health care services, while implementing the required policy and data regulatory frameworks.
That to achieve health and rights for all, people-centered systems and an enabling environment for accountability must be in place to ensure that health commitments are achieved and upheld.
In closing, Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Global CEO, Amref Health Africa, said: “In the next 30 years, 1 in 5 people in the world will be African. Unless we invest in UHC and health security our aspiration to be the continent of the future will be challenged, so must act now.”
Elizabeth (Lizz) Ntonjira,
Global Communications Director,
Amref Health Africa
+254 719 369 730