By Vic Motune

Technological innovation is set to play a major role in improving healthcare in Africa experts have predicted ahead a major conference in South Africa later this year.
The role played by sustainable tech-driven innovations and the inclusion of digitisation into health policy agendas are among the key themes to be discussed at this year’s Africa Health Conference to be held in South Africa in October.
Among the other topics to be discussed at the conference are how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used by medical professionals and how African countries are handling Covid-19 recovery.

Over 8 000 people representing 56 countries are expected to attend the event which will see a range of healthcare professionals, policymakers and industry leaders discuss the role played by digitisation and technology in creating new opportunities for Africa’s often under-resourced health systems.
Speaking ahead of the event, conference producer Cynthia Makarutse highlighted the fact that technological advancements are having a positive impact on every area of medicine and healthcare in Africa. These include fields such as pharmaceuticals, the manufacturing of medicines and health IT infrastructure.
She said: “Ever-advancing healthcare tech is presenting new opportunities to deliver the medicine, technology, and human capacity to the people and places where they are needed most.”

Makarutse added that technology was also “helping industry leaders balance the drive for resilient, inclusive universal healthcare with the reality of constrained human, medical, and technological resources”.
According to a report by the IFC, the private-sector arm of the World Bank, healthcare in the continent is, on average, the worst in the world. It accounts for approximately a quarter of all global disease-related disability and death, while it only has 1 percent of global health expenditure and 3 percent of the world’s health employees.
The lack of adequate infrastructure makes it challenging to obtain even the most basic medical care.
However advances in technology, such as computer-controlled vending machines, drones, and smartphone apps are helping to remove these obstacles, allowing more people to gain access to life-saving medications.

In recent years Africa has witnessed a huge rise in the number of smartphone users. According to The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) the continent will have over 700 million users by 2025.
Observers have highlighted people are using their smartphones to gain access to medical consultations and diagnoses without having to travel several miles to the nearest medical facility. For example, in South Africa apps like Hello Doctor have soared in popularity. It offers users essential healthcare information and a call back from a doctor for the price of R55 ($3) per month.
In Nigeria pregnant women and mothers can use an app like Omomi to keep track of their children’s health and have live chats with doctors on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis.
“Entire new sub-fields within the healthcare industry, such as have emerged around these technologies and are already driving the evolution of Africa’s healthcare systems” said Makarutse.
“Beyond simply following the developed world, Africa has the potential to lead in the R&D, production, and manufacture of innovative tech-driven healthcare solutions tailored to our unique healthcare challenges.” –

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