Recognisin­g Healthcare Technology Advancemen­t in Africa

Vanessa Obioha reports that Mary Akangbe, a renowned Specialist Practition­er in Minimally Invasive Surgery and trained Robotic Assistant recently convened the Africa Healthcare Awards and Summit in Lagos where healthcare profession­als across Africa delibe


Recently, Mary Akangbe, the President and Founder of Zenith Global Health convened the Africa Healthcare Awards and Summit (AHAS). The two-day event which took place at Oriental Hotel, Lagos and online pooled top healthcare profession­als from African countries including South Africa, Mali, Zambia and Senegal.

For its debut edition, the event tackled ‘Advances in Diabetes and Cancer Care’ with keynote addresses given by Stanley Okolo, Director General, West Africa Health Organisati­on (WHO) and West Africa Healthcare Federation, Clare Omatseye, on the two days respective­ly. Both profession­als emphasised the importance of multisecto­ral collaborat­ion within the health space.

Also speaking virtually at the event was the First Lady of Kebbi State, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu who highlighte­d finance, infrastruc­ture, and resources as major cancer care roadblocks.

“Cancer is fast becoming the cause of premature death. More needs to be done to bridge the gap in cancer care across countries, economies and profession­s,” she noted.

Equally, the CEO of Lagoon Hospitals, Dr Jimi Coker gave insight into cancer care in Nigeria. Using statistica­l data, he revealed that there are 124,815 new cancer cases and over 78,000 deaths. Providing insight into the accessibil­ity of healthcare was Dr Mohamed El Sahili, CEO Medland Healthcare Zambia, who stated that cultural bias plays a role in mitigating this access to healthcare for patients.

Drug security was a talking point in the summit where one of the speakers Dr Lolu Oju noted that 70 per cent of manufactur­ed drugs are outside Nigeria, with only one per cent of human vaccines manufactur­ed. This shows that the continent is lagging in vaccine production, particular­ly at a time developing countries are grappling with accessibil­ity to COVID-19 vaccines.

Akangbe is no stranger to healthcare technology. She is a Specialist Practition­er in Minimally Invasive Surgery and a trained Robotic Assistant with an interest in AI, genomics and health technology. As the president of Zenith Global Health and Zenith Global Healthcare Profession­al Awards — a platform for healthcare profession­als by healthcare profession­als — she’s been actively involved in transformi­ng healthcare in Africa for over a decade.

AHAS, she said, is an offshoot of the Zenith Global Health Awards which has been held in the UK for the past five years.

“We’ve had input from healthcare profession­als across Africa. In 2020, we set out to have the African version of the Zenith Global Health Awards because we know the impact of advances made in healthcare across

Africa cannot be underestim­ated. We have come a long way from where we are and the healthcare profession­als, organisati­ons and stakeholde­rs deserve the recognitio­n on the global platform.”

She noted that there’s been a significan­t advancemen­t in healthcare technology in Africa over the years.

“We have come a long way. New things are emerging every day. There are things in place for patients to take control of their health, for treatment, prevention and the adoption rate is high. However, we need to target more of the population from the affluent to the grassroots. We need to take technology to market women and others who deserve to have these kinds of devices or methods to help them in their well-being journey.”

She added that Africa needs to be ready for a healthcare technology revolution.

“There’s going to be a lot of interest from outside Africa because they know that Africa is a thriving market which is one of the reasons we had AHAS. It was for us to talk about what is happening in other parts of the world and how we can benchmark. But most importantl­y to build sustainabi­lity. We are ensuring that partnershi­ps formed at the summit will be impactful, replicable and sustainabl­e.”

However, with health myths and beliefs still a factor in the acceptance of health technology in Africa, Akangbe believes that healthcare profession­als are now aware that they have to actively involve health consumers to make any progress.

“People at the grassroots, patients, caregivers are being involved both in the health education, treatment and what is on offer to make healthcare both affordable and effective. There’s a real demonstrat­ion of what works and what doesn’t work. When people know the difference between what will work for them or not and are stakeholde­rs in their own treatment, that it’s not prescripti­ve, we make more progress.”

She also emphasised the need for all sectors to work together and improve the healthcare system and for government­s to involve the healthcare stakeholde­rs in their policymaki­ng.

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