Dedication to African health earns applause

China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-08 07:46

Loud applause broke out when Malik Juma, director-general of Zanzibar's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said most residents of his community had contact with, and benefited from, a Chinese medical team that settled there in 1964 and which has not complained about the tough living and working environment or conditions.

He was speaking at the 4th International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation, held in Gaborone, capital of Botswana, on Monday and Tuesday.

This is the first time the forum has been held in Africa - the others were in Beijing.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of China sending its first medical team to Algeria in 1963. Over the past 50 years, China has consistently supported and been dedicated to Africa's efforts to improving the health sector.

Dedication to African health earns applause

According to Ren Minghui, director-general of the Department of International Cooperation at the China National Health and Family Planning Commission, China has contributed to Africa's health sector in three areas: infrastructure, research projects and human resources.

Botswana's Minister of Health John Seakgosing said, "Through these joint efforts, and through continued dialogue on health issues and the sharing of experiences and lessons learned, as well as through identifying opportunities for strengthened future cooperation, Africa and China are bound to achieve even greater strides in health sector." But Ren also said the traditional means of cooperation between governments in this sector should be changed to give more space to the private sector and make this tie more market-oriented.

That's why more Chinese entrepreneurs in this industry were invited to the roundtable than officials and experts.

Unlike the older generation of Chinese businesspeople in Africa, who shy away from the media and public attention, their younger counterparts are more open and communicative. They speak fluent English to promote their companies and products and are willing to talk to the media.

"We are eager about investing in a factory in Africa, because it will greatly reduce our production cost," said a managing director from a drug company. But his concern is that regulatory policies in many African countries are still not strong enough to allow this production, and some of the investment policies are not satisfactory. But he also said this is the only way for both sides to engage in a sustainable business.

Encouraging more private investment to produce the products is an important way to help Africa fight against the fake drugs that have threatened millions of African lives, according to Cheng Feng, vice-president of Global Health Strategies, a health consultancy in New York.

"Only if the production cost is reduced and Africans produce drugs by their own means will affordable and effective medicines become available to everyday people and fake drugs will have no place to thrive," he said. Besides, combating fake drugs in Africa is a shared responsibility and efforts should come from exporting and importing countries, as well as the international community, to strengthen the supervision and regulatory system, said Gunmi Makinwa, director of the Eastern and Southern African Region of the United Nations Population Fund.

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