Universal health coverage in Africa: a framework for action
Joint 2016 TICAD conference working paper
Number of pages: 56
Publication date: August 2016
Strong economic growth in recent years has helped reduce poverty to 43 percent of the population. Yet, as Africa’s population expands, it is estimated to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, the region faces a critical challenge of creating the foundations for long-term inclusive growth. Many countries still contend with high levels of child and maternal mortality, malnutrition is far too common, and most health systems are not able to deal effectively with epidemics and the growing burden of chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
These challenges call for renewed commitments and accelerated progress toward universal health coverage (UHC), the principle that everyone receives needed health services without financial hardship. The primary reason for investing in UHC is a moral one: it is not acceptable that some members of society should face death, disability, ill health or impoverishment for reasons that could be addressed at limited cost.
However, UHC is also a good investment. Prevention of malnutrition and ill health is likely to have enormous benefits in terms of longer and more productive lives, higher earnings, and averted care costs. Effectively meeting demand for family planning will accelerate the fertility transition, which in turn will result in higher rates of economic growth and more rapid poverty reduction. And strong health and disease surveillance systems halt epidemics that take lives and disrupt economies. In 2015, the forgone economic growth due to Ebola amounts to more than a billion US dollars in the three countries hit by the epidemic.