NatHealth, Healthcare Federation of India and Africa Healthcare Federation in partnership with NewsX organised the biggest India-Africa Health Summit on December 17 amid the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the esteemed panelists, who shared their critical insights, were V Muraleedharan (MOS External Affairs, India), Dr Lia Tadesse (Minister of Health, Ethiopia), Rajesh Bhushan (Union Health Secretary, MOHFW, India), H.E Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam (Dean, African Missions In India), Dr Amit N Thakker (President, AHF & Executive Chairman, Africa Health Business), Daniel Bursa (Chief Of Staff, Ministry of Ethiopia) and Preetha Reddy (President, NatHealth & Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals).

India-Africa Health Summit 2020, backed by PWC India, IPE Global, HealthBiz Insight and Avian We, was a first-of-its-kind landmark event that aimed to foster south-to-south collaboration between the healthcare industries of India and Africa. The objective of the event was not only to come up with suitable solutions that would help make universal health coverage a reality across the world but also address some of the critical issues in the healthcare sector and chalk out the path in transforming the healthcare trajectories of India and Africa through effective partnership.

Speaking about the need for a India-Africa Health Summit in the first place, Dr Preetha Reddy, in the inaugural address, said, “In today’s world, all of our plans have gone completely out of the window because of what has happened with the pandemic. Having said that, Humanity is looking to come back stronger, collaborate more and innovate even better. That is the reason for us to even talk to each other and try to say, ‘How can we jointly do so much better?’! We all know that health and education are fundamental right, but health actually takes a precedent over everything else. The thought that the federation has come together with NatHealth, to me, is extremely significant. It may be a small step today but it is the beginning of a long exciting and committed journey.” She added, “By 2050, if we combine the population between India and Africa, we will actually be the strongest force.”

Looking at the pandemic as rather an opportunity, Dr Thakker opined, “They say crisis leads to an opportunity and this pandemic has created some good news at the end of the year where India and Africa are going to cement in the way they deal with health systems so that billions of livelihoods can be better and we can increase our life expectancy.’ Further citing how African healthcare system has changed over the years, Dr Thakker revealed that about 18 years ago, people in Africa realised that public and private sector should work together to improve maternal health, child health and improve infant mortality through engaging the public sector in producing evident-based policies. Little did they know that when 7 companies came together, it would start something that would spur out a single voice in every country, which eventually became the federation of healthcare voice. Kenya began about 15-18 years ago and since then the same model has being used to almost 27 countries in Africa, where these federations engage with the ministries on a regular basis to create a more enabling environment for better health for both public and private sector.

Representing Government of India at the panel, Rajesh Bhushan highlighted the rich and long-standing historical and cultural ties between the two nations and called the collaboration between NatHealth and Africa Healthcare Federation ‘an integral part of the overall umbrella of cooperation between India and Africa’.

Likewise, Dr Lia Tadesse spoke about the long-standing history of collaboration between India and Africa and expressed, “Covid-19 has exposed our weaknesses and challenged even the most advanced health system and strong economies. More than ever, this pandemic has shown us how interconnected our world is through everything. It has brought forth the importance of solidarity, resilient health systems and the need for universal health coverage. ” Listing the steps taken by the public and private sector of Ethiopia to fight the pandemic, Dr Lia added, “India and Africa’s future is closely interlinked. Our private sectors and entrepreneurs further strengthen our partnership, creating a win-win scenario. Ethiopia looks forward to a closer and stronger collaboration between Africa and India.”

Calling the event an important moment that will mark our collective responsibility and continued commitment, Daniel Bursa said, “The pandemic has proved that even countries like us have opportunities for revising and building resilient health systems through collaborative partners and efforts from global community including the private sector.” Meanwhile, H.E Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam, in his address, pointed out that Covid-19 has created challenges for African countries but also offered many opportunities.

Praising the timing of a health summit between India and Africa, V Muraleedharan said, “India enjoys a special relationship with the countries of Africa because of our shared civilizational values, anti colonial struggle and age-old people to people ties. After independence of India, our relationship with African countries has grown manifold and matured into an enduring partnership- both in the regional and global context. Therefore, I consider this subject very timely since both India and the fellow developing countries of Africa are facing the common threat of Covid-19. Covid-19 pandemic not only took lives but also livelihoods of people. Currently, we are all witnessing a major health crisis in the form of Covid-19 pandemic. It has affected most of our established practices, norms and regulations and has emerged as the biggest disruptor.”

Talking about how the effect of pandemic can not only been seen in health infrastructure but also the economy, he added, “The primary impact of this disruption has been economic. That’s why our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has said that in our fight against Covid-19 pandemic, we should focus both on jaan and jahan, i.e Jaan Bhi, Jahan Bhi. The pandemic has underlined the importance of ensuring the supply chain diversification and resilience, especially in the healthcare sector. It has made countries re-access their infrastructural requirements, focus on availability of medicines as well as development of reliable supply chains for critical healthcare products.”