The social and economic challenges faced by Africa may seem daunting – with many communities suffering from hunger, a lack of clean water and sanitation, and little access to education or a functioning health system. However, if we work together, I believe we can overcome these challenges one-by-one and build a positive, virtuous cycle where we invest in healthcare, which in turn increases economic development.
In many parts of Africa people cannot afford to pay to see a doctor or buy medicines, and in many places they are not readily available even if they could. This results in a situation in which children are prevented from pursuing an education, and illness impedes personal, societal and economic development. We can change this.
We’ve come a long way over the past five years – in addition to medical advances, vaccines and basic healthcare services are now reaching some of the most remote areas of the world, in large part due to international aid from countries including the United States and the United Kingdom, along with generous funding from non-profit groups such as the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. However, there is still much more to do, and moving to the next level will require a shift in mindset. It is clear than no single person or organisation can find the all answers to Africa’s problems. Only through strong partnerships and innovative collaborations will we find the strength and the resilience, creativity and energy to bring the scale of change required.
Today the pharmaceutical industry, NGOs and governments of developed and developing countries are taking multi-pronged approaches to health problems. We are working together to increase access to existing medicines and vaccines, accelerate R&D into new treatments for diseases most prevalent in developing countries and to form new partnerships to ensure they are then available to the patients who need them.
But new treatments are only half the answer in a region that has 24% of the world’s disease burden but just 3% of the world’s healthcare workers. That’s why we think programs like ours to reinvest 20% of the profits we make back in least developed countries back into projects that strengthen healthcare infrastructure in those countries have such exciting potential.
I’m looking forward to participating in the Frontiers in Development forum in Washington next week. The word frontiers conveys such promise – for what lies ahead, for what has not yet been discovered. Innovative science and new ways of approaching healthcare delivery will contribute to a healthier, more prosperous population. We stand together with the governments and stakeholders around the world, ready to fulfil our shared promise: to improve the health of patients around the world.