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Health & Fitness

Health opportunities in Africa’s trade bloc

 kidney health awareness
Nurses take part in a kidney health awareness campaign: There is a huge demand for medical personnel in Africa. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NMG 

The ongoing African Cup of Nations (Afcon) offers a recollection point on my continent’s progress towards an envisaged “one people”. Beyond the biennial continental event, what does this dream harbour for me and my children’s future?

Prior to the tournament’s kickoff, the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) created a marketplace spanning the entire continent and covering 1.2 billion inhabitants in 55 odd countries.

To put it into perspective, $2.5 trillion of aggregate GDP will make it the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation. Further growth is anticipated to be fuelled by a youthful population (Africa is poised to be among the few continents with a net positive population growth rate by 2040).

In a span of 30 years, the communique indicates population doubling to 2.5 billion inhabitants, comprising 26 percent of what is projected to be the world’s working age population

The analysis also indicates economic growth that will be double that of the rest of the developed world. For the pessimist, the only certitude in all these figures is the population growth, in which case AfCTA will have created an economic megaton bomb.

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For healthcare entrepreneurs, what opportunities does this economic and trade bloc create?

In Kenya, arguably among some of the few nations to have a vibrant private health scene, is there opportunity across the newly created markets?

AfCTA anticipates well developed and industrial regional powerhouses to have an upper hand in this. The removal of tariffs on several goods in intra-African trade means local pharma firms have better terms of goods entering export destinations.

Healthcare human resource and skilled health workers movement are also quick wins. The ratified protocols see not just movement of goods, but also people and their professions. Perhaps highlighting this goal is the declaration of intent for “Mutual recognition of standards, licensing and certification of service suppliers”. Hopefully this will make it easier for businesses and individuals to satisfy the regulatory requirements of operating across the region.

While gaps do exist, for Kenyan doctors AfCTA creates an opportunity for those not employed to emigrate regionally.

Certainly an imbalance exists across the continent in terms of doctor-patient ratios. This means demand for nurse, doctors and other skilled health workers is immense.

Sadly, the recent spate of xenophobic sentiments highlights a simmering distrust. Secondly, the opening of borders creates a possibility of a net efflux of doctors to higher remunerating regional nations, further upsetting the existing status quo.

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