This week, we look at the role that public-private-sector synergies can play in the fight to combat Covid-19.
Africa’s battle against the virus is intensifying from all angles and the combination of an increasing number of variants, slowdown in vaccine supply and low absorption rates demonstrates that it is far from over. While it is important to ramp up efforts to increase vaccine supply through bilateral deals and by accessing multilateral schemes, the prevailing crisis also calls for policymakers to pursue innovative local partnerships and solutions – wherever possible.
The pandemic has highlighted the consequences of relying on imports and international support, especially during a global crisis when resources are scarce. To counter this, African governments have engaged the private sector at varying levels in their responses to date, whether this is in the form of support for the health sector in treating patients or for the rollout of vaccines.
Health care: Useful lessons have been learned across Africa. Two private-sector-driven initiatives have supported governments' efforts in containing the pandemic in Ghana, namely the successful deployment of e-health solutions and teleconsultations as well as the development of rapid diagnostic test kits. In Senegal, Burkina Faso and Benin, innovative entrepreneurs have produced vital equipment and PPE (respirators and visors), supported disease surveillance and reporting, and set up auto-screening and online advisory questionnaires to inform people whether they could have Covid-19, all to help ease the strain on hospitals.
Vaccine rollout: In Kenya, private hospitals have been used to deliver vaccinations while the country’s private sector has gone above this to support the government’s rollout by committing to covering the costs of immunising employees and other members of the community. Under this initiative, coordinated through the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KPSA), for every employee and family member, participating companies will commit to vaccinating up to five additional people in the community, ensuring companies vaccinate as many (if not more) community members than they have employees.
These are only a few examples of the potential for innovative public-private-sector synergy in African countries when it comes to delivering a coordinated response to Covid-19. Given that the virus affects public health, public and private sectors as well as the livelihoods of the whole population, the sooner countries adopt a coordinated strategy, the better.
This includes drawing on and working with key private-sector stakeholders such as vaccine- and medical-supply manufacturers, health-care professionals, logistics companies, technology providers and media. It also includes nongovernmental stakeholders such as local civil society groups and religions institutions that can not only help to combat vaccine hesitancy, but also map local demographics to increase vaccine absorption.