Africa's Health Infrastructure

AfDB Poised to Play Financier Role in Africa’s Health Infrastructure

President of the Africa Development Bank Group, AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina says the Bank is poised to play a critical role as Africa’s Health Infrastructure financier.

Akinwumi who stated this while delivering a keynote address at the recently concluded ECOWAS Ministers of Health Conference in Abuja, explained that the Bank has the potential to play this role, drawing on its core expertise in infrastructure development and working with partners in support of national health system strengthening plans.

He was represented by the Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the AfDB, Dr. Beth Dunford.

Akinwumi, revealed that the Bank has developed a “Strategy for Quality Health Infrastructure in Africa”, which he described as a strategic framework for supporting regional member countries in accelerating development in the health sector.

“The current landscape presents opportunities for investment to meet Africa’s health infrastructure challenge. The Covid-19 pandemic, disease-burden transitions in many countries, and the unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution present unique opportunities for the Bank to support member countries in building solid infrastructure foundations for capable health systems.

“The Bank has the potential to fill an important niche as Africa’s health infrastructure financier. The Bank draws on its core expertise in infrastructure development and working in partnership with other development partners in support of national health system strengthening plans. The Bank has a long history of support in health and has scaled up its assistance in response to recent health crises.

“We have the capacity to deploy a range of financing instruments, including private-sector operations and public private partnerships, to help overcome barriers to private investment in the health sector and address the overall financing gap.

“The Bank can offer mixed infrastructure investments that connect health facilities to energy, water and Information and Communications Technology connections, to enable better quality and more innovative health service delivery.”

Speaking further, he pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the open Africa’s health infrastructure deficits especially in the Areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene WASH.

He stressed that health service delivery infrastructure is at the core of health systems but that the services are far behind on the African continent.

The Covid-19 pandemic and other epidemics in recent years highlight major deficits in national health systems and related infrastructure across Africa. Only 51% of primary health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have access to basic water and sanitation services. Africa has only 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people – compared to 2.1 in Latin America and 6.1 in Europe.

“These gaps underlie Africa’s vulnerability to repeated health crises and consequent development reversals. The severity of the pandemic, and the economic crisis it has triggered, has created a unique opportunity to address longstanding deficits in health infrastructure and services. However, in the wake of the pandemic, African countries also face sharply constrained fiscal resources and rising debt levels.

“Access to finance for health infrastructure will be a significant constraint on the development of the health system in the coming years. To help address this finance gap, the African Development Bank announced a Covid-19 Rapid Response Facility committing to provide up to $10 billion – of which over $4 billion was disbursed in last year – to African governments.

“Last March, the Bank also rolled out its award-winning $3 billion Covid-19 Social Bond – the largest dollar denominated social bond launched in international capital markets at that time. The Bank financed African regions through regional Covid-19 projects and provided also budget support operations in various countries.”

The AfDB has since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, supported ECOWAS to the tune of 22.3 million dollars in grants to fight COVID-19.

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