India-Africa health cooperation
Jun 17, 2017
India-Africa health cooperation
New Delhi will host leading health researchers and policymakers from Africa and India.
This India-Africa Health Sciences Meet (IAHSM) is a follow-up of the India-Africa Summit in October 2015. To accomplish this, there is: a proposed a $100-million India-Africa Development Fund, a $10-million Health Fund and 50,000 scholarships for African students to study in India.
- Africa and India together cover about a quarter of the world’s land area, support over a third of its population and harbour about half of its disease burden.
- Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, childhood diarrhoea and respiratory infections remain big challenges. However, both regions are witnessing a shift towards non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, etc.
- While Africa is quite diverse, the numbers show poor capacity in the health sector, especially human resource. It has a very low density of physicians and nurses, which stand at 2.7 and 12.4 per 10,000 people, respectively, against a world average of 13.9 and 28.6. This is also reflected in hospital beds and specialised medical equipment.
- India’s engagement with Africa is growing at a rapid pace in the sunrise sector of health care. Besides the private sector, Government of India initiatives such as ‘Focus Africa’, ‘Team-9 Initiative’ and ‘Pan-African e-Network Project’ have a significant investment on health care.
- The telemedicine initiative has enabled a number of super-specialty hospitals in India to be connected with physicians in Africa, impacting not just health tourism in India, but also capacity building in Africa through continuing medical education (CME) credits.
- In 2014 India exported medicines worth $3.5 billion to Africa and the foreign direct investment (FDI) by Indian pharmaceutical companies in Africa was $67.4 million.
- Affordable anti-retroviral drugs from India have been instrumental in containing Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
- India is also a frequent destination for Africans seeking specialised treatment for cancer and other ailments.
- India has clear strengths in its generic pharmaceuticals industry, and due to early development of its higher education sector, it has a large human resource in the health sector as well. These can be leveraged for capacity building in Africa.
- The health challenges facing Africa, India and other developing countries are not attractive for big pharmaceutical companies due to low profit margins.
- India has developed not just high quality institutions in basic, clinical and public health research, its alternative models of drug discovery, such as the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD), can provide interesting options. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, India) is already championing the OSDD model for TB and malaria, both highly relevant for Africa as well.
- For an aspiring global power, the India story will mean more if “Make in India” is extended to “Make with Africa”.
The Health Science Meet should discuss the
- Challenges and partnerships for Africa-based manufacturing,
- Investment mechanisms,
- Alignment of the regulatory frameworks and
- How best to leverage the funds announced by PM last year
- Research capacity in the two regions and identify strengths, weaknesses and potential partnerships.
- Disease priorities and areas of research focus should be outlined for future collaboration.
India’s ‘Look Africa’ policy can be a game changer if it also becomes an engine for knowledge generation and innovation. Capacity building, biomedical research and innovation should become central themes for discussion at the IAHSM. This will make the partnership sustainable and valuable.