‘Universal healthcare needed to boost African free trade’
Entrepreneur Pascal Mukadi working to build African healthcare infrastructure
With the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), Africa has entered a bold new era – the dawn of the regional common market. Yet, without a continent-wide embrace of universal healthcare, Africa will never realize its full economic benefits.
This is according to Pascal Mukadi, Executive Chairman of the Medical Fund Management (MFM) – a Johannesburg-based firm which manages healthcare funds & medical travel logistics.
“African governments have not fully understood the importance of healthcare in driving our economic growth” warns Mukadi. “Over the long term, we won’t be able to enjoy a fully-fledged African Common Market without strengthening national healthcare systems.”
A serial entrepreneur who has travelled widely throughout Africa, Mukadi says that healthcare systems are routinely ignored among those who plan the continent’s growth strategies. This is a big mistake, he cautions.
“We talk a lot about building infrastructure for transport, manufacturing & telecommunications – but very little about fortifying Africa’s healthcare infrastructure. However, weaknesses in our healthcare systems have the potential to derail our economic progress”.
With 54 nations having signed on to ACFTA, Africa looks set to become one of the world’s largest free trade areas, with an estimated value of over US $2.2 trillion per annum – and a marketplace of 1.2 billion consumers. Once it has come into full effect, the pact will see free movement of goods, services & people across the continent – with tariffs & visa requirements eliminated or drastically curtailed.
The vision conceived of by the forefathers of African independence – the vision of a united Africa – will have come closer to fruition.
Yet, widespread lack of healthcare access continues to cripple the lives of millions of Africans, who have the shortest average lifespan on the planet. HIV/AID, malaria & TB – along with a rising scourge of non-communicable diseases such as cancer & diabetes – are increasingly draining the human capital required to fuel African economies. Moreover – outside of a few notable exceptions such as South Africa, Kenya & a few others – African countries lack the medical resources to cope with the soaring tide of disease.
In part due to these factors, many observers expect a decline in economic & labor productivity across the continent in the coming years. Africa’s healthcare malaise can also stymie the long-term viability of the African Free Trade Area. This is also one of Mukadi’s concerns.
“Disease is bearing down heavily upon the finances of Africans – and at levels we’ve never seen before” he says. “If quality healthcare capacity remains limited to a small handful of countries, it will skew the progress that an African common market is meant to promote. Persistent outflows of financial & human capital will persist, dampening our prospects for sustainable growth & development.”
Mukadi is passionate about this point – so much so that he’s embarked upon an initiative to drum up investment in African healthcare facilities on the continent. In addition to raising funds throughout Africa & abroad, he’s also reinvesting some of MFM’s revenues on various infrastructure projects within the countries where the company operates.
And while new investors have already begun querying opportunities to partner with MFM on some of these projects, Mukadi is careful about ensuring that they’re a good fit.
“Look, obviously we’re keen to explore avenues for partnership, and it’s good that we’ve begun to generate excitement in the marketplace”, Mukadi says confidently. “But, beyond just investment, we’re looking for partners who are serious about Africa’s long-term development.”
“We’re looking for partners who can grasp the big picture.”
Author: MFM Editor
Published by: MFM media