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Kenyan corporates commit to supporting health in Africa

Corporate leaders and other representatives from the private sector pledged their support for health and health development in Africa at a roundtable meeting organised by Amref Health Africa in Nairobi today.

The breakfast meeting was held to discuss private-public partnerships in health ahead of the upcoming first Amref Health Africa International Conference to be held in Nairobi from November 24 to 26, 2014. Besides corporates, the event was also attended by Government of Kenya officials, civil society representatives and the media.

Amref Health Africa Director General Dr Teguest Guerma stressed the importance of corporates working with the public sector and civil society in sustainable initiatives that had a long-lasting impact on the welfare of communities, instead of one-off corporate social responsibility projects.

“The government cannot do it alone, and we cannot do it alone. For Africa to meet its health goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, the private and public sectors need to work together in a relationship of shared value and shared responsibility,” she said.

She announced that the Amref International Health Conference, which is co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation, will be attended by leaders and experts in global, regional and national health, and urged corporates to support the conference and get involved in the important discussions that will be held.

Mr John Musunga, Managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline Kenya, Mr Robert Ngeru, Samsung East Africa Chief Commercial Officer, Mr Steven Wandera, Regional Director and Managing Director of Britam Kenya and Dr Helen Gichohi, Managing Director of Equity Bank Foundation, made presentations about initiatives by their companies to improve access to health care in partnership with the public sector. The discussions were moderated by renowned media and theatre personality John Sibi Okumu.

Mr Musunga pointed out that there had been a great shift in recent years in the way pharmaceuticals operated that was not solely driven by profits. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), he said, had adopted a tiered pricing model that had made medicine more affordable in developing countries. GSK had also developed partnerships to enhance health care, an example being the company’s 20% reinvestment programme in which it was working with Amref Health Africa to train health workers in several African countries.

Speaking about Samsung’s contribution to health care, Mr Ngeru said that the company had developed smart phones with applications that could help health workers to monitor patients, especially pregnant mothers and children. He also highlighted Dr Smart, a mobile solution that allows institutions to collect information from patients and store it in a cloud, making it easy to synchronise data across institutions, and for doctors to easily access medical records, make diagnoses and update prescriptions. Making health insurance affordable and accessible in order to manage health care risks was the topic of Mr Wandera’s presentation. The British-American Insurance MD spoke about Linda Jamii, a revolutionary family medical care product that has been developed by Britam in conjunction with mobile service provider Safaricom and Changamka Microinsurance Company. The scheme is an inpatient and outpatient medical scheme into which funeral expense benefits have been built.

Emphasising the relationship between health and wealth, Dr Gichohi said that the Equity Foundation was deeply concerned about health because it was one of the greatest determinants of people’s capacity to work and produce wealth. The Foundation, she said, had developed a national franchise model, now in start-up stage, that would establish clinics around the country, use mobile telephony to reach patients with information on health and health insurance, and train health workers. Dr Gichohi added that the Foundation was seeking to work in partnership with the government and the National Hospital Insurance Fund, and would also want to work with Amref Health Africa for the training of health workers. She appreciated the support given to the foundation by the Equity Bank Group, whose CEO, Dr James Mwangi, was present at the event.

Amref Health Africa’s Director of Health Programme Development, Dr John Nduba, outlined the objectives of the upcoming conference and appealed to corporates to support it through sponsorship and participation. He noted that Africa had immense resources that could be channelled towards initiatives like this conference that would encourage sharing of knowledge and enhancement of Africa’s health agenda. Many of those present signed commitments to support health in Africa and the upcoming international health conference.