African Ambassadors in Japan commit to increased role in advancing Africa’s health agenda

By Tawanda Chisango1

Ahead of the Universal Health Coverage conference mid-December in Tokyo the African Union, the Global Fund and Friends Japan along with the African diplomatic corps organised a meeting to discuss key priorities for Africa’s health agenda and fostering partnerships with the Government of Japan. During the meeting African Ambassadors and the Government of Japan committed to continue to be advocates for mobilising resources and explore further collaboration in advancing Africa’s health agenda. African Heads of State and Government in July 2016 adopted new continental health policies that includes the Africa Health Strategy and the Catalytic Framework to end AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa by 2030. The former focuses on strengthened health systems and universal health coverage while the latter provides clear priorities and targets to address Africa’s three biggest public health threats.

 ‘At the centre of the universal health coverage movement is the health for all agenda that seeks to ensure that we reach everyone in need including the poorest and most vulnerable. The African Union’s blueprint for socio-economic and structural transformation, Agenda 2063 puts health at the centre and seeks to ensure that by 2063, every citizen has full access to affordable and quality health care services without incurring any financial hardships”, said Dr. Marie-Goretti Harakeye, the Head of Division for AIDS, TB, Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases at the African Union Commission while addressing members of the diplomatic corps in Japan.

The African Union has put in place robust policies through a highly consultative process that included regional blocs and their health agencies, private sector, civil society and development partners.

Strengthening African Union’s health architecture to advance global health security

To translate these policies into action the African Union is spearheading the strengthening of the continental health architecture. In January 2017 the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was established and has made significant strides including the establishment of Regional Collaborating Centres in 5 AU regions and supporting national public health institutes to respond to emergencies across the continent. The African Union is pushing for the implementation of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa’s Business Plan, supporting regulatory harmonisation through the implementation of the AU Model Law on Medical Products as well as the Establishment of the African Medicines Agency and is working on modalities to establish a Fund for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Sector.



The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is strengthening Africa’s health systems and needs to be sustained

Friends of the Global Fund Japan and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria briefed African Ambassadors on the importance of this private public partnership in advancing Africa’s broader health and development agenda and how Ambassadors can strengthen their role in fostering partnerships and supporting Global Fund Replenishment.

‘Health is fundamental for social and economic development and addressing this agenda is at the centre of achieving the sustainable development goals. We need to ensure we end AIDS, TB and Malaria as public health threats through increased investments in programmes that have more value for money. Investing in global health is a highly cost effective way to achieve greater security and stability, to protect communities worldwide from infectious diseases and to halt emerging health threats,’ said Dr. Marijke Wijnroks of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Programmes supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have saved 22 million lives, according to the 2017 Results Report.  Furthermore more than one-third of Global Fund investments go toward building resilient and sustainable health systems, which are critical to the fight against HIV, TB and malaria, improving the overall quality of health care, and enabling countries to respond to emerging regional and global health threats. Fully funding the Global is a critical priority for Africa especially given that 65% of the Fund is invested in Africa. The African Union works with Friends of the Global Fund (USA, Japan, Europe and Asia-Pacific) and partners in donor countries and across Africa to advocate for the replenishment of the Fund. Twelve African countries committed USD 34 million in the last cycle sending a strong signal to the international community that Africa is committed to shared responsibility and global solidarity.

Greater domestic health financing investments and increased accountability needed

Despite generating more than $520 billion annually through domestic resource mobilisation, more than 8.5 times the amount the continent receives in Official Development Assistance, most African governments have not been able to consistently meet their 2001 Abuja commitment to spend 15% or more of their domestic budgets on health programmes. However the comparison against the Abuja 15% target hides the fact that domestic financing for health always was and remains the primary source of funding for health. African countries spend on average 20 times more from their own resources than they receive from Official Development Assistance. The unprecedented economic growth in Africa offers a further area for new revenue collection, both through general taxation and through a variety of innovative financing mechanisms. Africa needs to translate these favorable macroeconomic conditions to increased resources for health.  African Heads of State and Government in July 2016 endorsed the Africa Scorecard on Domestic Financing for Health which will be produced annually beginning 2016 to assist African Union Member States and partners in expenditure tracking and increased accountability in health financing.

1 The writer manages the health communication portfolio in the Department of Social Affairs at the African Union Commission.