New York

27 September 2018

Deputy Secretary-General's closing remarks at High-level Dialogue - Africa’s Health and Finance: Pathways to Economic Growth and Prosperity [as prepared for delivery]

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, 
Honourable Ministers, 
Distinguished officials from UN Agencies, the World Bank, and the private sector, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This has been a very rich discussion. I thank you for your contributions and concrete suggestions on how to increase investments in our health systems, rooted in our collective commitment to greater health equity, strengthened health security, and better health outcomes for all in Africa.

Like you, I am proud of the tremendous improvements in health across the African continent. However, this progress has been too slow and continues to be uneven across and within countries. 

Across Africa, people continue to live shorter lives than in any other part of the world.  One in 16 African women still faces the very real threat of dying giving birth.   

Africa still bears the world’s heaviest burden from infectious diseases – including neglected tropical diseases – at a time when its overstretched health systems and budgets are grappling with the rise of costly and complex non-communicable diseases.

Overcoming these challenges will require a stronger focus on universal health coverage to ensure equitable access to quality and affordable care and services, for everyone. 

Too often, our healthcare systems push families further into poverty, with high out-of-pocket spending required for even the most basic services. 

And for women and girls in particular, too often healthcare is simply out of reach.  We must place them at the core of our journey to universal coverage. 

To cope with the challenges we face – including the rise of antimicrobial resistance and emerging disease outbreaks like that of Ebola recently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – we must strengthen health systems so that they can respond to the unique needs and contexts of communities. 

This will require significant investments in the health sector. Suitable macroeconomic policies, especially fiscal policies, will be crucial to increase government revenues and public investment in health to meet rising costs, increase financial protection, and reduce out-of-pocket payments. 

And as we push ourselves to increase access to medicines, we must do more to bring production of essential medicines and health commodities to the African continent. Streamlined regulatory systems to accelerate the timeline currently required to bring new tools to the African market will be crucial. 

Governments cannot succeed by themselves. Other stakeholders, including the private sector, will play a critical role in supplementing the technical and operational capacity of the public sector to expand reach and impact across communities and supply chains.

And in an unpredictable and crowded financing landscape, the private sector can help bridge the gap in limited donor and domestic resources.   

Almost one-third of health expenditure in Africa comes from private sources, including out-of-pocket spending and private or voluntary health insurance programmes. 

Additionally, the private sector accounts for up to 60 per cent of the value chain for health, whether for medical provisions, manufacturing, distribution or retail. 

In short, we cannot achieve our health targets without the contributions of the private sector. 

As most countries in Africa achieve satisfactory and robust rates of economic growth, we have a unique opportunity to transform the health and well-being of the African people. Doing so will be good for business and for society. 

And if we hope to fully capitalize on the demographic dividend presented by the historic number of young people on the continent, these are investments we absolutely must make together. 

Investing in Africa’s health is not just a moral imperative; it is an economic one.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Health is central to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as both an indicator and a driver of development. 

I commend this initiative and welcome your commitment to collaboration to unlock Africa’s health and economic potential. The United Nations stands firmly with you. 

Thank you.