In February African leaders will meet in Addis Ababa to discuss new ways to solve Africa's health challenges. In this feature, we look at what these are and speak to two founders of the Africa Business: Health Forum (ABHF).
By historic and global standards, the advances made in health in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980 have been nothing short of staggering. People are living much longer and access to vaccinations has massively reduced death rates from infectious diseases. Yet life expectancy and particularly, healthy life expectancy still lag far behind that of the rest of the world, so there is a great deal more that can be achieved.
Africa accounts for the bulk of the global infectious disease burden with about 75% of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, 90% of the malaria cases and deaths.
In addition to the pandemics and other uniquely African infectious diseases, it is estimated that by the year 2020 Africa could have 60m people with hypertension, 1m cases of cancer annually and 18.6m people with diabetes. Along with the specific conditions, there will be an expected explosion of other cardiovascular conditions, chronic respiratory diseases and neuro-psychiatric conditions.
Africa remains dependent on imported medicines and other health technologies --a risky situation in a continent with the world's highest prevalence of HIV. The 7.6m Africans living with HIV now on antiretroviral treatment (with more yet to be identified) depend on 80% of antiretroviral medicines being imported from outside the continent. The local production of medicines and other essential health commodities is important for all health challenges faced by the continent. Demand for health commodities is growing rapidly. The ageing population in Africa requires access to a growing range of medicines and assistive technology that cannot be met with Africa's existing manufacturing capacity and sources of supply.
Africa will have 2bn people in 2050 --one fifth of the global population, the largest and youngest workforce by 2025 and over 500m people in the labour market. Successfully absorbing this workforce in labour-intensive and highly productive activities/sectors (e.g. manufacturing, technologies, service delivery) holds the key to creating Africa's demographic dividend.
Africa has the highest urbanisation rate in the world. About 40% of the population already live in urban areas and the 20 largest African cities are expected to grow by 50% in the next 10 years. This represents opportunities in infrastructure development and services. Growing populations and rapid urbanisation will result in the rise of a middle class. In 2010, 150m Africans made up the middle class, a figure that is expected to reach 210m in 2020 and rise to 490m by 2040. The rise of the middle class has caused a shift in consumption patterns with its members preferring consumer goods (finished and manufactured products) as well as buying in supermarkets or similar set-ups. This is a market worth 250bn [pounds sterling] that is set to grow at an annual rate of 5% over the next eight years.
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