By Christian Benard

The African Development Bank(AfDB) during the 22nd ordinary session of the Economic Community of West African States Assembly of Health Ministers in Abuja, outlined a new strategy that seeks to boost access to health services across the continent.

Opening the meeting on behalf of Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari, the country’s Health minister Osagie Ehanire, noted that covid-19 had exposed fragility of health systems and infrastructure in the sub-region.

“Part of our strategy is to work together as a regional bloc since the challenge posed by the pandemic have strengthened our collective resolve as a region to build back better,” he said.

“It is in this regard that we appreciate and command the support and the leadership role of our African Development Bank Group in the development of quality health infrastructure across the continent.”

The vice president Dr. Beth Dunford who represented Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the bank group president, explained that the strategy focuses on three categories; primary healthcare infrastructure for underserved populations, developing new secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities alongside specialist facilities for cancer diagnosis and treatment, dialysis and pain management, and building diagnostic infrastructure for efficient and effective disease diagnosis across Africa.

“COVID-19 is a wake-up call on the central role of health systems and infrastructure for inclusive economic growth. Developing quality health infrastructure is a triple imperative as it is fundamental to public health, has significant impact and is of strategic importance for governments,” said Dunford.

Dunford said the bank was assured to play a critical function as a health infrastructure financier by drawing on its expertise in infrastructure development and working with sector partners.

“The portfolio will include investment project results-based financing, risk-sharing instruments to leverage private sector resources, debt and equity investments in private companies, and the promotion of innovative sources of finance such as diaspora funds,” she said.

“Filling financing gap for health infrastructure would require mobilizing finances from private sector, growth of financial institutions and diaspora groups.”

The strstegy is currently in the consultation phase and entails policy dialogue and technical assistance in effective financing strategies including expanding health insurance.

In order to achieve the United Nations sustainable Development Goal 3 which refers to good health and well-being, the implementation will boost the continent’s efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other epidemics in recent years have highlighted major deficits in national health systems and related infrastructure across Africa with only 51% of primary health facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa having access to basic water and sanitation services.

Access to finance for health infrastructure will be a significant contributor to the development system in the coming years. The strategy therefore will accelerate the growth of quality health infrastructure and ensure that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without financial hardship.

This strategy for Quality Health Infrastructure in Africa 2021-2030 follows a request from Governors of the African Development Bank to define its role in addressing Africa’s health infrastructure deficits, drawing its core expertise in infrastructure development.

It also responds to growing demands from regional member countries (RMCs) for the bank’s support in overcoming gaps in national health infrastructure, which have been exposed by covid-19 and other health crises.

The bank launched a multi-billion dollar covid-19 Response Facility and issued a $ 3 billion covid-19 bond to support efforts of African countries to mitigate health and economic impacts of the pandemic.