President urges African business leaders to invest in health

KIGALI - President Paul Kagame, on Saturday, urged the private sector both in Rwanda and across the continent to build stronger partnerships and increase their investment in health.

KIGALI - President Paul Kagame, on Saturday, urged the private sector both in Rwanda and across the continent to build stronger partnerships and increase their investment in health.

Addressing a cross-section of prominent African business leaders and others gathered in Kigali for a private sector summit for the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Kagame noted that it was time to expand participation in financing the health sector beyond the traditional donors and government players. 

The event was organized by Friends Africa, a Pan-African organization which works to mobilize strategic political and financial support for the fight against the three diseases.

“Even a modest additional investment can save millions of lives, improve overall health of the population, strengthen health systems and provide economic gains through increased productivity of the workforce. We stand all to benefit from that,” said the President.

The summit was organized to enhance engagement of African private sector in the fight against the three pandemics affecting the continent, and to mobilize resources for the Global Fund.

Acknowledging the crucial role played by the Global Fund in saving countless lives that would have otherwise been lost to preventable diseases like HIV /AIDS, Malaria & Tuberculosis, the President noted that the Fund provides an example of a successful Public and Private Partnership.  
“Yet in spite of this, we do not have enough resources to permanently eradicate these diseases and other threats to the health of our people,” he said.

While this presents a challenge to finding new ways of supporting existing health initiatives and thinking of new interventions, Kagame said it also provides an opportunity to identify sustainable solutions, develop additional partnerships and broaden sources of support. 

The President further noted that investment in health is good for business since there is a direct connection between business profitability and accessible affordable health services.

He particularly urged the Rwandan private sector to take up the challenge, collaborate and capitalize on the untapped market together with their counterparts elsewhere on the continent and beyond.

“Health is not a one-off investment; people will always need health services and hence there will always be a market in this area of business.”

He specifically pointed out that investment in infrastructure, provision of health care, manufacturing and distribution of drugs, insurance and training bring in good returns.

“The health sector accounts for some of the biggest expenditures in terms of drugs, medical equipment and treatment.  And all this money...if our (African)  private sector seized this opportunity ; we would have more money remaining  and circulating in our economies  and this would have a knock-on effect  on the well being of our people,” he said.

While a healthy productive workforce results into healthy profits, the President underscored that the prevalence of disease and absenteeism, due to illness, exert a heavy price on enterprises.

“A 10 percent HIV prevalence rate leads to a drop of over 30 percent in enterprise productivity.”

In her remarks, First Lady Jeannette Kagame, as a board member of Friends Africa (Friends of the Global Fund Africa), stressed  that increased investment and involvement of the private sector in health is critical to confronting global health challenges to save lives.

“In the ongoing struggle to control, to eradicate and find a cure for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis – Africa’s wealth, can and should contribute to Africa’s health.  There is no doubt that the combined efforts of the private and public sector advance our struggle,” she said. 

Faced with unprecedented health challenges posed by these diseases, the First lady said the continent is obliged to move beyond “business as usual” and renew partnerships between public and private sector in Africa for the benefit of all people’s health. This, she said, would lead to stronger communities and stronger nations.

Launched in 2006, Friends Africa is a Pan-African organization which works to mobilize strategic political and financial support for the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Addressing the summit, Michel Kazatchkine, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, commended the leadership in Rwanda for its strong commitment to health and human development in the country and Africa as a whole.

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