Global health experts today published a landmark collection of papers that together provide a unique microscope on the experience of countries, companies and organizations in sub-Saharan Africa addressing neglected health problems with homegrown drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other creative scientific and business solutions.
The first-of-its kind study chronicles the triumphs and troubles of entrepreneurs, institutes and firms in Africa creating innovative, affordable technologies that bring hope to many sufferers of local diseases. While some have yet to succeed, several organizations cleared major hurdles to finance and create products, some of which may expand into global markets one day.
It is the first research offering a broad range of evidence and concrete examples of African innovation to address local health concerns. The papers draw on the experiences of authorities, researchers and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. In addition to efforts involving health products, the experiences of health venture capital funds in African and other developed countries are profiled.
The papers were produced by Canada’s McLaughlin-Rotman Center for Global Health (MRC), at the University Health Network and University of Toronto, and published as a special supplement in the UK-based open-access journal publisher BioMed Central Dec. 12. One of the papers was published earlier in the journal Science.
The authors hope their work helps scale up and sustain work underway, while inspiring other organizations and countries to follow suit with the benefit of lessons learned by these African pioneers.
Says MRC Director Peter Singer: “If Africans are to prevail over diseases that kill and maim millions each year, they must do so by unleashing the formidable talents of their own African scientists and entrepreneurs. In the long term, the sustainable solutions to Africa’s health problems rest with the home team. The large firms of the developed world producing drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other health products are a great resource and partner. But many people will die if we wait for scientists from elsewhere to invent and market the health products Africa needs. These studies demonstrate that, with the right partners and incentives along with support from governments at home and abroad, Africans have the scientific creativity and entrepreneurial talent to improve local health and prosper at the same time.”