POOR INFRASTRUCTURE HINDERING AFRICA’S COVID RESPONSE?
Africa needs far greater healthcare entrepreneurship if it is to overcome its public health challenges, says Pascal Mukadi of Medical Fund Management Pty. Ltd.
With the recent announcement of a high-powered vaccine against Covid-19, a wave of excitement has overtaken the globe. Based on initial test results, the drug’s manufacturers – Pfizer and BioNTech – claim an efficacy rate of over 90%. Pending approval from the US Food & Drug Administration, the vaccine could become available for global distribution within weeks.
But will Africa miss out?
The vaccine – recently hailed as the world’s best hope of quelling the pandemic – needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, far below freezing temperature. Yet, except for a few major research institutions, Africa doesn’t have the ultra-cold freezers required to store the drug. And at a cost of between US 10, 000 to US 16, 000 each, these units are prohibitively expensive.
So while the European Union, the UK, Germany and other wealthy nations have already placed their orders for the vaccine, African governments have been slow to move. Poor healthcare infrastructure – especially inadequate cold chain facilities – is to blame. As a result, experts say that is unlikely that the vaccine will be made widely available on the
Without greater private investment in healthcare, challenges like this will persist – even after Covid-19, says Pascal Mukadi – Executive Chairman of Medical Fund Management (MFM).
“Africa’s public health challenges are simply too great for governments to manage by themselves” says the South African-based healthcare entrepreneur & philanthropist. “The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored this reality. As a continent, we could be making far greater headway in managing this crisis if more entrepreneurs – especially innovative, African entrepreneurs – were given access to public-private partnerships.”
MFM manages healthcare funds for African healthcare seekers, governments & private sector organizations. Headquartered in South Africa, the company provides a range of health & wellness solutions to consumers across the continent.
“One of the reasons why Africa lags behind in developing modern medical equipment is that – as African entrepreneurs – we’re not properly incentivized within the healthcare space” says Mukadi. “Our governments prioritize investments from foreign companies & aid agencies. As a result, Africans don’t create enough home-grown solutions to our public health issues.”
Mukadi says that African governments & entrepreneurs should forge stronger partnerships in researching, designing & manufacturing medical equipment and facilities. He says that the cold chain equipment required for vaccines is but one example.
“We should be producing ultra-cold equipment right here in Africa. We shouldn’t have to rely on expensive imports in order to handle our Covid vaccination processes” Mukadi says. And this, he believes, is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Continent-wide, we should be on a major drive to upgrade our medical facilities for the challenges of the 21 st century –” explains Mukadi. “We need major investment – now – in identifying & solving our medical challenges on the continent.”
Mukadi is putting his money where his mouth is. Through MFM, he’s recently launched Mediquip, a specialized investment fund aimed at developing healthcare facilities & medical technologies across Africa. The fund is currently eyeing initial investments in Nigeria, Congo & Kenya.
“With or without Covid-19, Africa has an ongoing health crisis”, warns Mukadi. “At MFM, we’re spearheading African solutions.”