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Investing in Health: Benefiting from Corporate Engagement in Health in Africa

JCIE TICAD VI Roundtable
Nairobi, Kenya, August 29


The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African development (TICAD VI) was held in Africa for the first time in 2016. In line with one of the goals of TICAD VI—to increase Japanese private investment in Africa—a large number of corporate representatives attended the programs in Nairobi. As an increasing number of Japanese corporations are investing in Africa, they have become increasingly aware of the health situation in their prospective host communities and the value that their own businesses can anticipate from investing in the health sector. Investing in health does not need to be limited to companies operating in the health industry. Rather, companies of all types have an opportunity to make contributions to the health field, whether it is through their core competencies, products or services directly contributing to the health field, or employee education and engagement. And companies of all types can benefit from the healthier workforces and markets that grow out of these investments, as well as the good will and heightened understanding of the communities where they are operating.

JCIE and Amref Health Africa—a prominent African NGO working in the field of health throughout Africa—organized a corporate event that targeted the Japanese corporate representatives attending TICAD VI to provide a rare opportunity for them to engage in practical discussions with representatives from Amref and corporations that are already investing in health in Africa, and to accompany Amref health workers to observe first-hand how innovative technologies are employed to improve health in Africa. Following a roundtable discussion that examined why and how corporations benefit from investing in health, participants visited Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum, where they visited a health clinic and accompanied community health workers on home visits to get a first-hand look at the current situation and models that are being used.


The participants learned about the challenges facing the health sector in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, particularly the need for more healthcare workers. They also learned about several innovative partnerships attempting to tackle these challenges. For example, a partnership between Amref and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is offering management training to hospital executives, whose expertise tends to be in medicine and not in management, so that they can run their hospitals more effectively and efficiently. One speaker talked about lessons being applied from the banking sector to help increase demand for healthcare, and two others presented a training platform using basic cell phone text messaging to train health workers and simultaneously collect data on disease outbreaks and other health trends. One lesson that was repeated throughout the roundtable was the importance of evaluating not just the outputs of these programs but more importantly the impacts that they are having on people’s lives and on economic development. But for businesses that are accustomed to seeing rapid returns on their investments, patience is needed in the health field because there may be a longer lag time between investments and any discernable impact.

Participants

Agenda

Roundtable Field visit to Kibera to see Community Health Volunteers at work in households