Sustainability Corner: who cares about healthcare?


“The greatest wealth is health.”Virgil, an ancient Roman poet

Very few issues are more hotly debated than healthcare. For decades the debate has raged between those who defend the system and want more equitable and accessible healthcare. But the question continuously arises, are we focusing on the wrong issues when discussing health care. Rather than look at public versus private, we have to look at innovations in the world of business. Cause, indeed if we take the right cues from the business world and apply it to health care, we could end up with a more affordable and efficient system (Christensen et al., 2008).

The world is currently suffering from Covid 19 and its variant Delta. Scientists expect further mutations and pandemics in the future. Unfortunately, the virus mutates, but financing policies do not change when the judiciary power stays indifferent to a proposal for health care reforms—consequently, poverty, morbidity, and mortality rise. The health sector is an economic sector with the potential to lift citizens from poverty, morbidity, and unemployment. Judicial decision-making develops personal liberty, health care rights, and socioeconomic equality. Policymakers must make decisions that promote financing and involvement of their human capital. With the focus on health plans, the health sector would successfully develop pragmatic strategies specifying long-range goals of health services domains. Otherwise African health sector could implement Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in combination with One Health.

Although the old empires have since dissolved and colonialism has mostly come to an end, the world remains split into those who have power and those who don’t. And this imbalance is still evident in healthcare today. Healthcare delivery has always been a significant component of socioeconomic policy in Africa, notably in East and West Africa. Each state addresses a budget that includes health care projects year after year. And yet, we see no actions, and consequently, new cases of diseases and death rates increase. This is a disastrous reality that affects personal investment, creativity, and productivity. It increases trauma. It reduces citizen engagement. Corruption takes a seat. But even under corrupt leadership, policy choices are what leads to a successful healthcare system.

Status quo retrospectively

The current pandemic served as an experience to develop self-control and skills to respond to outbreaks and protect people. What if Covid 19 is taken like any crises the continent has faced? No, It Cannot Be. That is a legitimate answer a reasonable person may give. Retrospectively. Between 1980 and 2000, the continent faced multiple malignant viruses like HIV, Ebola or bacteria like Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and many other non-communicable diseases related to cardiovascular, respiratory, diabetes type 1, and cancer. Conditions that negatively affected the life expectancy of citizens and hindered economic development, foreign direct investment, employment, industrialization, among others. This experience led governments to take outstanding commitments like the Abuja Declaration in 2001. Head of African States pledged and faithfully allocated at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector by 2015 The strategy was excellent, and the timing was reasonable to enhance and create a solid health system.

East African Community (EAC) enjoys security and freedom of movement of people. However, its health care delivery depends on the importation, and health financing depends on international players in public finance. Therefore, cooperation comes with fewer opportunities and numerous challenges. The EAC addressed multiple achievement points in its plan of action for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action 2012-2016. However, the goals were not achieved, or also less is officially published about it. Importantly the Plan of Action showed the necessity for the Abuja Declaration to serve its current 197.64 million inhabitants.

The Healthcare sector is a complex system that brings together the health supply chain, communities, and financing. Decision-making for the healthcare sector is regarded as a philanthropic act rather than an economic pillar supporting and improving the business condition. It is an ecosystem where experts from multidisciplinary backgrounds have a significant role to play. The health supply chain takes into account downstream to upstream; infrastructures such as hospitals, clinics and laboratories, roads, energy infrastructure, water supply, information technology, and drug, medical devices manufacturing.

Decision-making in the healthcare sector is a plan specifying long-range goals of the health services area. For example, to prevent an epidemic, a program for protecting a population is developed and implemented. Moreover, a domain of study and practice in which the priorities and values underlying health resource allocation are determined. The key is to implement the Abuja Declaration. The impact is magnificent. Something no one has ever thought of Africa. A working healthcare system could be created and eliminate corruption and increase health service standards and taxation.

The future is here

Technology is transforming healthcare by delivering precise and personalized medicine. So, we now know that technology is key to disruption because it cuts costs. But did we know that the way it slashes prices in healthcare is by producing an entirely different type of medical service?

Then, after traditional medicine makes a diagnosis based on symptoms, it prescribes medications to cure them. So, for example, you can take a pill to make your fever better. But this won’t cure the disease that’s causing it.

On the other hand, medical technology can precisely diagnose diseases and cure patients instead of simply alleviating their symptoms. For instance, through antibiotic therapy, development of precision medicine that uses microscopes and staining techniques, scientists have discovered that humans are covered in masses of micro-organisms, some of which are harmless and others of which cause diseases.

But that’s not all technology does for medicine; it also personalizes it. Using IT as a technological enabler, for instance, encourages large networks of affiliated companies with like economic models to share information and respond to the specific needs of individuals. Thanks to technology, health care data could be produced in much more significant amounts. People will browse their test results on their phones and link them to data from their jogging routines, diets, vitamin intake, or sleep patterns. Medical data will be another part of our lives, and having more accessible access to it will have a massive effect on the industry.

This is the kind of disruption in the market that could lead to the health care revolution we need. In general, the healthcare industry moves slowly, and it’s resistant to changes – including technological change. Only $1.4 billion was invested in health-oriented digital start-ups in 2012, compared to $2.7 trillion in other digital start-ups. How can we overcome this?

Everyone agrees that healthcare should be open and accessible. We need more choices. This, in turn, people would select what is most appropriate for their needs and budget. 

In the end

The healthcare system is dysfunctional, and the key to making it work well is creatively disrupting the field. That means dividing general hospitals into distinct business models that offer different services and profit in their ways. Technology can aid this process by cutting the costs of intuitive examinations and specialized labour. So the question remains, why can’t healthcare be more straightforward? And how can we reimagine healthcare in the future?  The future is now and therefore we must earnestly begin to move the change from dreams to realities.


Bush, Jonathan; Baker, Stephen (2014): Where Does it Hurt?:An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing HealthCare. Penguin Publishing.

Christensen, Clayton; Grossman.H. Jerome; Hwang.D.Jason (2008). The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care. McGraw-Hill Publishing.

About the Writers:

Romein is a (self-confessed) Pan-Africanist by heart. His diversified professional career spans many different sectors, i.e., local government, mining, consultancy, construction, advertising, and development cooperations. Romein is the Head: Business for Development at PIRON Global Development, Germany ( Contact him via ([email protected])

Ebenezer ASUMANG is a Development Communication Specialist, an SDG Mkt Building & SME Researcher and Finance & Investment Nomad. He`s Ag. Country Director with PIRON Global Development GmbH, Ghana (   Contact him via ([email protected])

Alain Mugabo currently working and ongoing training for medical radiology technology at Centrum für Diagnostik und Therapie Strahleninstitut Cologne in Germany.


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