African finance and health ministers, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, private sector and representatives of bilateral and multilateral development institutions, began a two-day meeting on health financing on Wednesday in Tunis.
Key issues on the agenda of the meeting include planning and budgeting for results, improving performance, health insurance, results-based financing, as well as sustainability of programs related to HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health.
The meeting was officially opened by Tanzania's finance minister, William Mgimwa, with Tunisia's Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali; the Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka and the World Health Organisation Director General, Margaret Chan, as the main speakers.
The conference began with the hypothesis that better health leads to greater wealth and that improving the sector in the continent can be an essential driver for long-term economic development and growth.
Prime Minister Jebali said Tunisia has a vested interest in the conference dealing with health care.
He stated that good health is both factor on the demand and supply side of development economics. Healthy individuals live longer lives and are more productive and contribute to national income, job creation, and economic development and growth.
Some ministers shared their views on how the continent can draw lessons from current systems, to better understand how to forge consensus on raising awareness on successful experiences from Africa and promoting South-South learning.
In an interview on the sidelines of the conference, Côte d'Ivoire's health minister, Thérèse Ndri Yoman, explained that more attention should be given to the health care sector, to spur more growth in the continent. In her view, in addition to making good economic sense, wider investments in health care will help African countries fulfill their commitments to the fundamental values of safeguarding human health and life. "These commitments are the bedrock of our societies today," she observed.
For his part, Chadian health minister, Dr. Mamouth Nahor N'gawara, said that there are also clear additional social and political benefits derived from a healthy population. He lauded the African Development Bank for its big support to Chad in the health care sector. "Although difficult to express in monetary terms, the AfDB's health programmes have had significantly positive effects on the economic and well-being of individuals in Chad," he said. However, he encouraged the Bank to be more active in the sector.
Also contributing to the debate, Gambia's finance minister, Kolley Abdou, explained that healthy people in the continent should be seen as a s source of wealth. The African Development Bank should continue to play its development role, by contributing to improve health. Drawing examples from many cultures, Mr. Abdou said: "Health is wealth in terms of human well-being and also in terms of wealth creation.
Madagascar's finance and budget minister, Hery martial Rajaonarimampianina, for his part, said his country has identified the people's health as one of the most robust and potent drivers of economic growth, with improved health generating significant economic benefits for individuals and families as well as their communities and the society at large. He added that: "Improving the health of girls and women in the continent in particular will have a significant impact on poverty reduction, since they make up 60 per cent of the continent's poorest people."
The high-level ministerial conference is organized by the Harmonization for Health in Africa mechanism (HHA), in collaboration with the African Development Bank, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The meeting is focusing on the urgent need to get the best out of available resources in order to accelerate progress towards attaining the health MDGs and beyond.
The conference is expected to adopt a framework for engagement and action, which would be used by governments to engage relevant stakeholders in concrete programmes to improve health care.
The AfDB's Human Development Department Director, Agnes Soucat, the conference will stimulate dialogue and enhance leadership and collaboration between ministries of finance and health as well as other national stakeholders like parliamentary committees, civil society, professional associations and employer organizations.