An interesting story can be constructed in various ways. Some require long, descriptive sentences or detailed testimonials; others will only call for a few short phrases, and one picture can be a thousand words worth. But some stories can be explained through numbers alone: Africa’s health sector is an extreme example of the last model, where inconceivable numbers present the essence behind a dwindling default.
This story can be explained using only three figures: 25 per cent, 3 per cent, and 1 per cent.
The Inconceivable Gap
Nearly 25 per cent of the world’s disabilities and death caused by diseases are happening across Sub-Saharan Africa, while the entire African continent is only responsible for 16 per cent of the world’s population. Despite these implausible numbers and ongoing need for treatment, local governments’ money expenditure on healthcare amounts to just 1 per cent (!) of total global health spending. And if that is not enough, only 3 per cent of global health workers are active in the continent. Africa also accounts for nearly half the world’s deaths of children under five and has the highest maternal mortality rate.
Two main factors require aggressive treatment in order to establish a better reality and bridge the gap. The first is reducing the number of patients; the second is increasing the number of health workers throughout the continent. While the two are interconnected, a third x-factor has the ability to bridge the gaps in the most efficient way possible, and disrupt the African health sector. I am of course talking about technology.
An unprecedented opportunity
Health technology has become one of the trendiest, most innovative sectors in the world over the past decade. Many breakthrough companies are developing solutions for different challenges in the field, utilizing rapidly evolving technologies to their advantage. With a focused, smart investment, Africa can attract such companies and establish innovative solutions that are so desperately needed.
First, with the help of various technological developments, the number of patients and disabled people across the continent can be significantly reduced. Sophisticated devices, sensitive sensors, smart algorithms, and more, enable comprehensive testing and identification, all in a mobile, scalable and affordable manner. Diseases and deficiencies can be identified at an early stage and treated immediately, thus drastically reducing the number of patients.
Second, various companies utilize technology to train medical teams - exceeding current training options in both quantity and quality. With advanced simulators, cloud technology (for instant connection to mentors and lecturers from all over the world), sophisticated AI and machine learning, medical teams can be trained anywhere, at a relatively short time and low cost. At the end of the process, those teams present a particularly high standard of care.
The numbers we discussed represent such an immense gap, leaving no other option than profound disruption. Advanced technological solutions are the best, most plausible way to bridge the gap, provide life-saving medical treatments on a large scale, and reach hundreds of millions in need. With the help of drones, Artificial Intelligence, computer vision, machine learning and more, favorable treatment opportunities can be found and executed in the scalable manner that is so essential for Africa.
Looking at the numerous options for technological adoption, bridging the mentioned gap is not a farfetched dream. Now, governments need to make an informed decision and adopt innovative, breakthrough technologies that can help the local communities. With a smart, focused investment, Africa can attract the most innovative and advanced companies in the world, provide tangible solutions to hundreds of millions of people in need, and tell a new story based on other, more optimistic numbers.