2005 Annual Report
Science & Technology and Health Innovation Systems in AfricaMessage from the Executive Director
We are acutely aware that Africa faces myriads of health challenges ranging from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to unaffordable, inaccessible and dilapidated health services. This health burden not only causes unnecessary deaths and untold suffering, but also continues to block economic development as it damages the continent's social fabric.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) indicates that provision of adequate health services is a major challenge to most African economies. The NEPAD health strategy acknowledges that poverty cannot be alleviated or eradicated in the continent as long as disease burden, disability and death continue to plague the continent.
It is, however, noteworthy that most sub-Saharan governments have risen beyond the initial denial and apathy of the persistent health crisis and recognized that efficient health services and facilities are essential to combat poverty in the continent. African countries are committed to the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that seek to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases in the agreed time frame of 2015.
Regrettably, the 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) report, the Millennium Development Goals indicates that many countries are behind in achieving the set goals. Some developing countries, unlike sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have made progress. More specifically, Millennium Goal Number Four calls for reduction in child mortality and yet, levels of under-five mortality are higher presently than they were sixteen years ago in Africa. Millennium Goal Number Five calls for improved maternal health and yet, despite increases in the rate of attended deliveries, more than 500,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year with the number rising to 1000 times higher in SSA countries. Millennium Goal Number Six aims at combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and despite pockets of successes in some countries in reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, the story is bleak for most African countries with millions of deaths, reduced life expectancy and reversed economic gains.
It has never been so urgent for African leaders to understand the subtleties of implementing sound policies for guiding the science, technology and innovation system. The continent is faced with several challenges. These include vulnerability to the extremes of climate change, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss. In addition, the severe poverty and hunger that most Africans endure, worsens.
Science, technology, and innovation have a vital role to play in solving these problems. In 2006, ACTS worked closely with African governments and regional bodies to sensitize them, from our perspective, on options for addressing these challenges. Our involvement in policy formulation and outreach included collaborating with ASARECA and PBS to provide technical support to COMESA in implementing the Regional Approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (RABESA). Furthermore, the Centre provided training and capacity building in science and technology policy analysis through the ACTS Institute.
The good news is that African leaders have now acknowledged HIV/AIDS and malaria as health and development disasters and are putting in place policies and institutions to coordinate national efforts to address these diseases and their ramifications. Today, our challenge as stakeholders in the health sector is to ensure that Africa meets the health related MDGs within the set time frame. We must have an African perspective towards achieving the millennium health goals in terms of richer and more inclusive policy choices, strengthened and more focused programmes and a solid negotiated plan of action.
This is possible with a radical shift of focus from offering just curative medicine to incorporating other crucial aspects, such as behavior change, research collaborations and linkages to practitioners in the health sector.
I believe that the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in its knowledge brokerage function, and in collaboration with other like minded institutions can bring a new perspective to health delivery systems in Africa since it is concerned not only with health policy, but also with health innovations systems. Read more
Dr Osita Ogbu
Former Executive Director, ATPS