The start of a new year provides an opportunity for each of us to look ahead and envision our hopes for what we want to achieve and experience in the upcoming 12 months.
As the newly-appointed Managing Director of Africa Health Business, the start of 2021 has extra meaning and excitement for me.
Mrs. Marloes Kibacha
When we started Africa Health Business (AHB) five years ago, we wanted to create a useful knowledge and networking platform to bring together the African private health sector through an annual conference, the Africa Health Business Symposium (AHBS). After the successful inauguration of AHBS in 2016 and the formation of the Africa Healthcare Federation (which came about with technical assistance from AHB) we began to dream bigger. We realised that we had a unique team of skilled, experienced and knowledgeable people that could drive the private health sector in Africa forward, not only via the annual event but also in the areas of consulting and advisory.
Building AHB has been a great learning experience in which we have broadened the visibility of our company but also increased awareness of the opportunities that the African health sector presents. And we have continued to work tirelessly toward this vision. Of course, there are challenges, but without ignoring the problems, our strategy is to be solution-oriented, both in terms of the management of our internal processes as well as in our work with our clients and the projects we undertake.
My work over the past 10+ years has given me the privilege of visiting and working in more than ten countries covering all corners of Sub-Saharan Africa and I am deeply committed to the continent, both personally and professionally. As we look ahead to 2021, we have hopes and goals as an organisation, both internally and externally, when it comes to our growth and our impact on the health sector.
In 2021, I want to continue attracting driven, knowledgeable and experienced Africans who want to contribute to changing the status quo in Africa’s health system by focusing on the private health sector. In addition, I aim to support and motivate our current team at all levels to continue the growth path that each of them is on. If AHB grows, they will also grow in their own professional careers. I believe in people before profit, and one of my key priorities is that our team members (of which 70% are women) will get the space to grow in their skills, capabilities, confidence and careers.
One of the important lessons we learned in 2020 is how to effectively shift from in-person events to online gatherings, and I want to continue to move forward with this sense of flexibility and innovation. The eAHBS webinar series, although not what we had initially hoped for, were very well attended and gained even more traction than our past events. It allowed us to broaden our audience, inviting the global health world to our sessions. We hope that this will foster more global partnerships on the African continent that will prosper health systems and increase our impact. We were able to learn from key decision makers in both the public and private African healthcare space as they journeyed through the uniquely challenging issues of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leadership from the African Union, Africa CDC, as well as private companies such as BroadReach and AstraZeneca, shared their valuable experiences and knowledge.
I also want to see us grow in the breadth of our impact. At the moment, the majority of our projects take place in East Africa, because we are headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. But I am aware, based on both knowledge and experience, that there are large untapped areas and markets where equitable, accessible, quality healthcare is not available and I am keen to grow our reach further into these areas.
I want AHB to continue playing a role in building Africa’s self-reliance. We learned at the start of COVID-19 how overly dependent we are on other continents to support our health security needs. We want to encourage investment in Africa’s health sector so that we can expand our manufacturing capacity, develop our health workforce and strengthen our infrastructure.
Despite the challenges, the pandemic has brought to light opportunities and has showed that people in Africa are resilient. The continent has not been faced with high death rates compared to the West and, even though the testing capacity in countries on the continent are not up to the level of that in the West, it shows the opportunity for growth. In addition, digital health has proven to be an excellent tool when it comes to disease prevention, surveillance and treatment. We should take advantage of the current momentum that COVID-19 has created both in the public and private health sector.
I am looking forward to positioning AHB even better as the go-to partner on the ground in Africa that can support both international and local organizations in engaging the private health sector and its stakeholders. I am looking forward to exploring new partnerships and collaborations with healthcare stakeholders that will create tangible impact and health outcomes on the African continent, all with the aim of creating universal access to quality and affordable healthcare.
At the start of this new year, I want to reaffirm AHB’s commitment to growing the business of health in Africa, with the purpose of achieving universal health coverage (UHC). The private sector has a significant role to play in our journey towards UHC and AHB will continue to bring out the best of the private health sector for this purpose.