By Elder Adamu Bello Karofi, MPSN.
Africa is a continent of enormous potential. So many things about this great and significant part of the world are outstanding and simply breathtaking. From the vast arable land supporting the growth of different medicinal plants to the large deposit of solid minerals like Gold, Diamond, Silicon, Silver etc lying beneath its earth’s crust. This is not talking about the great human resources the continent has. According to the latest estimates of the United Nations, the population of Africa as at January 2021 is 1,357,282,276 people. This shows that Africa has a great human asset which if utilized effectively will make the continent the best in the world!
Africa today is lagging far behind in the delivery of quality modern healthcare while North America, Europe and Asia have the best healthcare systems in the entire world. These continents are on top of the ladder not because they’ve more resources than Africa but because of good innovation and advanced technology. Therefore, technology and innovation are the basic things that’ll push, propel and shape the healthcare system in Africa.
Technological breakthroughs and disruptive innovations will democratize healthcare delivery and give everyone in Africa access to good quality healthcare. The basic advantage of most innovations is; in addition to solving a particular problem, makes the product of the innovation cheap, accessible and easy to use. Amazon for example disrupted the commerce industry by making us shop from the comfort of our rooms. Uber disrupted the Taxi Industry by enabling us to book for Taxi in our Mobile Phones and have it in our doors within a few minutes.
Most privileged elites in Africa don’t patronise African hospitals. They choose to travel to the best Hospitals in Europe, North Ameria or Asia to treat common ear infection. This is as a result of total lack of confidence in the healthcare system of Africa. Technology has the tendency to revolutionize and reinvent the African Healthcare system and in effect discourage medical tourism. By virtue of Africa’s good climate coupled with its rich heritage, people and culture, technological revolution of the healthcare system will not only discourage African elites from seeking for healthcare abroad, but it’ll attract patients from other parts of the world. The impact this would have on Africa’s GDP, and its healthcare particularly is unquantifiable.
Many diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, Sickle Cell Anemia etc have become a thorn in the flesh of healthcare delivery in Africa. Technology and innovation will bring about advancement in the areas of Biotechnology, DNA engineering, medical diagnostics, novel implants and new vaccines, non-invasive therapies etc. These technologies will not only bring cure to diseases but will break a significant frontier in the field of ‘preventive therapy’. Falling sick will become unacceptable as everyone will be immuned to so many diseases right from infancy. Maternal mortality and morbidity would become the shadow of their past!
Breakthrough in the field of Telemedicine and Virtual healthcare will decongest most hospitals in Africa and deliver quality healthcare to the remotest of areas. Ambulatory cases would be treated from afar and only patients with serious conditions will be required to be physically present in hospitals. This will make the medics and other health workers pay more attention to the seriously sick, which will translate to better treatment and greater output. The challenge of hospital acquired infections will be significantly reduced. The bane of lack of mobility and transportation will also be brought to a halt.
Technology and innovation have made sharing of information a very easy task. With the aid of technology and disruptive innovations, a Chadian finds it easier to talk to his friend in far Canada than his immediate neighbour. This ease in information sharing will help in enlightening hundreds of millions of Africans about new developments in the field of medicine and healthcare. It’ll also help in dispelling many wrong notions and superstitious beliefs and make people accept only quality and credible information. Not only general populace, health professionals will have information at their fingertip that they wouldn’t have had without attending seminars and symposia in another distant country.
We have all seen how fundraising has been made incredibly easy by technology. People now raise millions of dollars within hours or days to help ailing but poor patients get surgeries, buy expensive drugs and offset other medical bills. If this type of technology will be available to all Africans many patients will not die again for reason of not having enough money to pay for an expensive medical procedure. A patient suffering from a particular ailment will have an opportunity to join the club of people battling with the same medical condition. This is in form of platforms like WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups, Twitter Pages etc.
The economy of the world is gradually shifting from being commodity-based to data-based. With the help of technology of Big Data Algorithms and Cloud Computing, super huge amount of data would be analyzed within the blink of an eye and stored without fear of it getting lost or misconstrued. Breakthrough technologies will give Africa a comprehensive database of patients suffering from different illnesses and that’ll make Health research statistics cheaply available for organizations. Patients’ monitoring through the help of software would be made easy.
The market of fake, counterfeit and substandard drugs is a multibillion dollar one and the primary target is Africa and the primary victims, Africans. It’s only technological innovations that can provide us with tools and ways to screen and identify fake product from the original one. Fake drugs’ circulation in Africa would become a thing of the past if we leverage on technological innovations. In addition to solving the problem of fake and counterfeit drugs, logistics and supply management would be significantly enhanced by technology. In the years to come, due to this reason, shortage of drugs or out of stock will end. This doesn’t stop at only drugs but other medical supplies. A clear example is the drone delivery of blood and other supplies as recently tested by start ups in Nigeria and Rwanda.
The points I’ve highlighted thus far mostly explained the direct impact technology and innovation will have on the future of healthcare in Africa. Development in the areas of renewable energies like solar, wind and electricity has shown us how electric cars and non-carbon emission engines will be ecosystem friendly. If we’re all sorrounded by cars and engines that don’t emit pollutants, the much dreaded ecological collapse will be far from near. And many respiratory illnesses and cancers caused by harmful gases will reduce. Rapid improvement is also being recorded in the field of recycling of wastes. This will insignificant proportion cleanse our environment and make our water clean and our aquatic lives safe.
There is no limit to what technology can do and innovation can achieve in making Africa not only have better healthcare system but also the world superpower in the aspect of quality healthcare delivery.