When world-altering events like the current COVID pandemic occur, every level of society is forced to adapt in some way,  writes Dr Allan Pamba, Africa Network Lead, EMEA-LATAM at Roche Diagnostics.

This pandemic of our time has seen economies rise and fall, livelihoods battered, and new global mindsets put into orbit for the foreseeable future – all in a two-year window. And in a health crisis, of course, the world looks to the healthcare sector for answers more than ever.

In healthcare leadership, particularly in the African context, there has been some confusion in terms of where we go from here. Beyond a singular focus on the pandemic, what comes next? It’s time for African voices to be heard. The voices are getting louder and both public and private organisations should be taking a moment to listen.

The African healthcare landscape is binary. Of course, we have the immediate challenge that is COVID.

But then – and this is by no means secondary – we have the conspicuous need for other healthcare interventions in several other disease areas, which have been flying under the radar in many ways because of the pandemic.

Many African countries don’t have equal opportunity in terms of healthcare access when they are held up against other countries in the world. And we need some help to find that equal footing. This is where Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are essential.

PPPs are critical in the ongoing African healthcare journey. At Roche, as a private company, we develop products that are needed and could have unique impact on the public. But we still have many barriers to access including price, and we need to bridge the gap. We hope to work more intensively with governments & other healthcare stakeholders in Africa to create win-win situations. Our core purpose, beyond meeting our shareholders’ expectations, is to help make healthcare more accessible for all. To that end we need to call on governments to exercise their stewardship mandate and take accountability for delivery of Universal Health Coverage across Africa.

Working with the public sector, of course, does have its challenges. There are some barriers to successful collaboration that I believe we can break together. If we get it right, the partnerships we create will stretch our products to reach a lot more people than we are able to reach alone in the private sector space. No doubt that requires flexible and innovative business models and new assessments of the risk appetite of companies like ours.

In practice, it starts by us setting up a bedrock of business presence in Africa. With both feet on the ground, we then stretch out with strategic PPPs, to start the journey of credibly supporting universal health coverage on the continent. As part of health businesses in Africa, it is our responsibility to show an active interest in engaging in the discourse around public health. We engage with multiple cross-sector partners – in the private sector and NGOs, for example – coming together with governments to tackle specific disease areas like HPV and HIV.

We are at a juncture where measured interventions breed new innovations, based on input from multiple stakeholders. While it is always a stretch to say, ‘we could make a loss’ in the short term, there’s a ‘sweet spot’ – a balance. It is prudent to focus on long-term human impact and a long term strategic view to the sustainability of a business.

In Africa today, tackling the dual epidemic of Infectious diseases and noncommunicable diseases requires more than just financial capital. They require a strong commitment to partner and innovate by both government, industry and other stakeholders. If we work together, we are poised to craft a new reality in Africa, where every African finally experiences the right to better health and a better life.

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