For six years, I have travelled across Africa as a humanitarian – speaking to mothers caring for sick children, listening to the inspiring words of dedicated healthcare workers and sharing my vision of health for all with our leaders.
I am also a businesswoman. I have watched investments in Africa’s health improve not only the lives of our people, but also the economies of our communities, countries and continent.
So, I’m hopeful about the potential of the World Economic Forum on Africa, where business minds will meet political leaders in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss the economic future of Africa. I am truly moved by the Forum’s theme, Delivering on Africa’s Promise, and the idea that we can only do this by unlocking the unlimited talent of this continent’s creative and hardworking citizens.
But I worry those gathered will focus narrowly on discussions of economic statistics or trade rules and ignore the only way we can ensure Africa delivers on its promise – by investing in the health of its people.
Just look at what has been achieved with investment in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Since its creation over a decade ago, the Global Fund has driven progress on fighting these diseases to a point where we can see the end of all three of these mass killers.
We have come to a critical crossroads. Without US$ 15 billion mobilized this year, the Global Fund will not be able to continue this historic progress for the next three years, and Africa will fall backwards in its fight against AIDS, TB and malaria at great economic and human cost to our continent.
International donors such as the United Kingdom and Australia must come forward to fund the Global Fund, and African countries must follow through on their health promises. But African and international business leaders also have a responsibility to invest not only in their companies, but also in the people who run them and the communities whose support of those businesses ensures they can thrive.
As the largest finance provider of AIDS, TB and malaria programmes in Africa, the Global Fund is an obvious choice to channel that investment – it also provides incredible value for money.
Combining US$ 15 billion for the Global Fund with other sources would mean 6 million people could receive treatment and care for TB; 588,000 additional lives could be saved from malaria; and more than 18 million people could have access to antiretroviral treatment by 2016.
In 2012, the private sector contributed only US$ 29 million out of the US$ 3.1 billion contributed to the Global Fund last year – that’s less than 1%. Not good news for African business. African economies and businesses are now listed among the fastest growing in the world, but this growth can only be maintained with healthy staff and customers. Funding the Global Fund isn’t charity; it’s investing in a sustainable future, which makes clear economic sense.
To African and international business leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum on Africa, I say: Step forward and dedicate yourselves to increasing private-sector contributions to the Global Fund. We Africans are creative and hardworking – our potential is limitless. Stand with us to deliver on Africa’s promise by investing in health. Healthy people, healthy businesses, healthy communities and healthy economies equal solid economic development. Surely that is good economics and a sound investment!
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Author: Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Singer and President of Princess of Africa Foundation and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of the Arts and Society.
Image: A woman from Kenya prepares ribbons for World’s Aids Day REUTERS/Antony Njuguna