Remarks – Abu Dhabi Health Forum

We are all here to talk about reimagining health and life. 

It is a universal topic – cutting across geography and culture 

    We all want health and a good life – and I hope you all achieve this! 

      Let me begin with my perspectives: 

      I am married to a doctor – and one of my daughters is doing pre-med – so I live and breathe healthcare at home! 

          I invest in healthcare businesses in Africa – I see the daily challenges – and opportunities in healthcare in Africa. We run clinics and one of the largest HMOs in Nigeria.  We want to democratise access to healthcare. 

          And I am a philanthropist – my foundation is the largest dedicated supporter of young entrepreneurs in Africa – and as you will hear, we invest, train and network, healthcare entrepreneurs across Africa. 

              What I want to focus on in my brief remarks, is how we can unlock improvements and equality in healthcare, by leveraging the power of entrepreneurship and innovation, and working across sectors to make a difference. 

                Let me start with what is well known to be my premier passion, entrepreneurship. 

                1. We all i.e. private and public sectors and the development world need to prioritize appropriate capital allocation and investments in innovation (health research and health technology / IT) to drive global improvements in health outcomes — across Africa, my foundation has funded 700 healthcare entrepreneurs, with a gender distribution ratio of 49% male to 51% female, but this is just a tip of the iceberg.  These entrepreneurs have gone on to help communities and even their countries in advancing health care delivery in Africa. 

                Some of these representative beneficiaries include. 

                • Ritalee Monde who is providing affordable medical oxygen in Zimbabwe.  Through her company Leemed Supplies, she is making medical oxygen accessible at one-third of the market price, even providing it for free to those unable to afford it. 
                • With her aspirations to establish a medical oxygen production plant, Monde hopes to meet the needs of all 212 hospitals and 1,684 clinics in Zimbabwe while generating more employment opportunities. 
                • A 2018 beneficiary, Giancarlo Beukes is the founder of Impulse Biomedicals, a multi-award winning South African medical device start-up aimed at increasing access to life-saving technologies through affordable innovation. 
                • Impulse Biomedicals adopts a “Frugal Bio design” approach – developing commercially sustainable and high-impact medical devices specifically tailored for developing countries. 
                • The company’s focus spans two key areas: paediatric asthma and emergency treatment for anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction. 
                • One of his pioneering innovations, ZiBiPen, is a user-friendly, reloadable auto-injector for emergency adrenaline delivery to treat anaphylaxis. 
                • For paediatric asthma patients, Impulse created the Easy Squeezy sleeve that reduces the inhalation force of standard inhalers by two-thirds, making them significantly easier to use. 

                1. It is not just early-stage entrepreneurs and companies that make a difference. Big pharma also has a role to play here. To ensure a sustainable health future for all, there is a need to review the current patent system and effect reforms while still incentivizing innovation. There also needs to be incentives for big pharma to partner on R&D for diseases from lower income countries. 

                Incentives for investing in R&D and manufacturing facilities for big pharma in developing countries is also important — so leveraging the global trade system is also an important element of global health equality. 

                Even beyond pharma, the same steps should be taken to open up access to medical devices research and manufacturing, health care business model innovation, and so on. 

                1. Energy deficit and Healthcare Delivery: 

                We need to work innovatively across social sectors to achieve results. A high percent of health care facilities in Africa do not have reliable power supply (I think it’s around 40%) — without power, the health outcomes will be low. 

                During the COVID pandemic, this was a major problem as isolation wards had no power, it was also a challenge to store vaccines sent to the continent. 

                The global renewable energy sector, both thermal and hydro energy sectors should step in to address this massive energy deficiency in Africa to realize health outcomes in Africa. 

                1. Climate Change and Healthcare Delivery: Speaking of the link between renewable energy and healthcare, the two are also linked via climate change. We hear so much about available climate financing for renewable energy projects, as well as climate change adaptation and resilience projects — but what about unlocking climate funding for healthcare delivery as well — particularly on the margins where climate change is leading to new diseases, or diseases appearing in place they were not seen before. 

                As healthcare issues are becoming more severe due to climate change, how can climate funds be accessed to address health care as well? 

                With private sector innovation, start-up funding from foundations and financial institutions, health care policies from national and global health systems, investments from all as well as cross sector collaboration, we can definitely move humanity forward. 

                5. Global Health Equity and implications for health outcomes: 

                We have significant imbalances in quality of health outcomes, excessive investments in R&D in pharma, medical devices and practices for health conditions in rich countries, while poor countries miss out. But the quality of healthcare in the world’s poorest countries, can have an impact on the richest countries — the world is interconnected, and climate change is making transmission happen faster. 

                Covid started in China and quickly spread to all parts of the world. 

                The lesson here is that we should be interested in global health equity and not just national heath because poor health outcomes affect all everywhere. 

                Speaking frankly, Africa is behind, with limited budgets and poor healthcare infrastructure. 

                Thank you. 

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