Guest Post: How Health Care Hopes for Africa Are Becoming Realities

by Juan Carlos Negrette on May 14, 2014

By Juan Carlos Negrette, Managing Director, Johns Hopkins Medicine International

Since its creation, Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI) has been actively involved in emerging economies, well before these markets came to be considered attractive to the investment community. For many years now, JHI has had active and vibrant collaborations in economically growing Latin American and Eurasian nations such as Colombia and Turkey, involving us in a broad portfolio of relationships in countries with vast economic and social differences—but all of them united by their need to improve patient care.

Eclipsed by the fast development in other geographic areas, Africa remained for a time at the edge of JHI’s peripheral vision. However, faithful to its ethos of looking in a less-orthodox way at health care market possibilities, JHI a few years back started actively considering the untapped potential in Africa as a diverse region blanketed with pressing health care needs. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 11 percent of the global population yet bears 24 percent of the global disease burden, while only accounting for 1 percent of the global health expenditure.

This disproportionate relationship between the continent’s needs and invested resources has no doubt contributed to some of the health-related calamities that are periodically highlighted by the international press. This calamitous image is perhaps the best-known face of Africa. But stubbornly as that image has persisted, a more accurate and auspicious one has begun to emerge alongside it: namely, the image of a continent crowded with resilient people that, in spite of real challenges, has come to house several of the most dynamic economies in the world.

Before JHI became involved in collaborations in Africa, we looked at the intense demographic changes the region was experiencing, and the unique economic dynamics at play there. We also observed the region’s existing health care infrastructure and workforce, which are sorely lacking compared to those of most other countries. These are the same characteristics that any health care investor would examine, but we brought a different perspective to the task—a perspective that went beyond simply avoiding significant risk, and that instead was biased toward recognizing opportunities that might have an impact on health in the region, with the requirement only that the attendant risk be manageable.

Our belief in health care investment opportunities in Africa has been validated. Today the economies of Nigeria, South Africa, and other African countries are among the top 30 largest of the world. A rapidly growing middle class is now a common feature throughout the region. The notion that Africa is an economic and health care “basket case,” as many once claimed, has been proven to be a shortsighted view, belied by the vibrant expansion now taking place there. We see enormous opportunities in Africa for us and other players in the global collaborative health care industry, such as a chance to create new institutions to address medical, nursing and technical education, and to advance clinical care, and in ways likely to improve social well-being.

JHI has already taken the first steps in forming strategic collaborations and partnerships, including an agreement to participate in the building of a string of clinics in Nigeria. Our discussions with potential collaborators are taking place not only in the largest and most advanced economies in Africa—they are literally all over the map. Where once we could only say that we had hopes for Africa, now we can say that we are executing on opportunities there. We're confident that other investors, academic medical centers and institutions involved in global collaborative health care will be joining us in greater numbers, and with ever larger commitments, in the coming months and years.

1 Comment

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vivien w.kwande May 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Hello, I am from Nigeria and my NGO gives free health care to people in the rural areas. Our office is in shendam LGA and we have been operating for 5years now. We have partnered with a few ngos here in nigeria and I would like so much to partner with you if you give us the opportunity to show you what we have done so far so far. This is my number +2348037277231. Hope to hear from you.


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