"What's happening with us?" — Kenyan health scientist Okumu

Okumu is the Director of Science at Tanzania-based Ifakara Health Institute, one of the leading health research organizations in Africa.
Fredros Okumu (second right) on a panel discussion with other experts at the Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. Courtesy

A renowned Kenyan health scientist, Fredros Okumu has criticized African governments for not doing the right things, especially when it comes to correcting what he thinks has gone wrong in the health sector – the continent’s wealth.

Okumu is the Director of Science at Tanzania-based Ifakara Health Institute, one of the leading health research organizations in Africa, with a record of developing, testing and validating innovations for health.


The East African native told the gathering at the ‘Kusi Ideas Festival’ in Kigali on Sunday that there is currently lack of understanding that health is Africa’s biggest wealth.


“If we do not protect the health of our young people – the so-called demographic dividend, it’ll not actually materialize in that sense. I would really like to see more investments in health with the idea that in the future these are the people we will need to grow our economies,” he said.


Despite the gradual reduction in maternal death rates, diseases such as malaria as well as improvements in treatment services like HIV/AIDS, the health advocate asserted that governments have given up their responsibilities.

“Today, the management, care and control of these diseases are paid for primarily by the international community. There is a lot of donor money that comes into HIV/AIDS, malaria control,” he noted.

At the moment, a country like Nigeria accounts for almost 25 per cent of malaria cases. If you add Mozambique, Ghana and Cameron, they account for almost 55 per cent of malaria cases. The only one tool that countries need is bed nets.

Yet, Okumu said, of the 20 bednets that are currently approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), only two of them are manufactured in Africa.

“If we are saying that this is the most single tool that we need and it is the same tool that we do not manufacture locally, what’s happening with us?” he wondered.

The Kusi Ideas Festival, organized by the Nation Media Group, kicked off this morning at the Intare Conference Arena in Rusororo, Gasabo District.

President Paul Kagame is expected to officially open the conference. A presidential panel that will feature Félix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the  Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

Raila Odinga, the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, African Union and Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa will be part of the panel.


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