India Exim Bank Study Suggests Setting up US$ 100 million Fund for Building Regional Healthcare Hubs Across Africa

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India Exim Bank’s study titled “India-Africa Healthcare: Prospects and Opportunities” was released during the 16th CII-EXIM Bank Digital Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership on July 13, 2021, in the presence of Dr. S Jaishankar, Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs, Government of India, H.E. Mr. Slumber Tsogwane, Vice President, Republic of Botswana, H.E. Dr. C. G. D N Chiwenga, Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Republic of Zimbabwe, H.E. Mr. Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry, Republic of Ghana, and Ms. Harsha Bangari, Deputy Managing Director, India Exim Bank, along with senior corporate executives.

Healthcare has remained an important pillar of India’s development cooperation with Africa. India has long been engaging with several African nations to help alleviate various infectious diseases by making generic medicines and vaccines available at low costs. According to the India Exim Bank’s study, India’s export of pharmaceutical products to Africa has more than doubled from US$ 1.3 billion in 2010 to US$ 3.2 billion in 2019, making it the largest pharmaceutical exporter to the continent. India has also engaged with Africa for supply of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Africa’s healthcare development remains uneven as reflected in the Universal Health Coverage Service Coverage Index (UHC SCI), with seven countries in Africa having UHC SCI higher than the global average of 66, vis- à-vis the African average of 46 in 2017. Additionally, Africa’s growing population, along with its demographic and urban transition, could further add to the limited healthcare system in the coming years. There is an increasing need for a multisectoral approach to improve the region’s access to equitable healthcare.

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In order to strengthen this partnership between India and Africa, India Exim Bank study suggests setting up a US$ 100 million fund for financing the construction of five 100-bed capacity tertiary hospitals across Africa, spread across the five regions of the Continent.  The study highlights that India, on an average, attracts over 50,000 African medical tourists annually, reflecting the demand for India’s affordable and quality healthcare. Indian hospital majors that have gained significant experience in running hospitals under the PPP framework could be ideal partners for meeting Africa’s healthcare infrastructure needs.

The study also suggests developing a pharmaceutical value chain in collaboration with the African countries and establishing regional pharmaceutical or vaccine manufacturing plants, along with joint facilities for R&D and cold storage facilities under the PPP model, contributing to building resilient supply chains.

The other areas of cooperation suggested in the study include, strengthening hospital management and IT infrastructure, digitalisation of healthcare, facilitating medical tourism and wellness centres in Africa, developing medical equipment value chain, providing medical education and capacity building of health personnel, fostering healthcare innovation, among others. 

The healthcare and wellness sector in Africa is expected to be worth US$ 259 billion by the year 2030. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will potentially integrate the African continent of 1.3 billion people presently, and 2.5 billion people by 2050, thereby creating scope for tapping the expanding market. The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a window of opportunity for Indian hospitals and related companies to collaborate to build a resilient Africa, giving the India-Africa Partnership a new dimension. Further, India’s medical diplomacy with Africa supports the Agenda 2063 and the SDGs of Africa and could be a critical pillar for taking India-Africa relations to new heights.