A new Africa Digital Health Network ((ADHN) has been launched to act as an umbrella organization to act as a marketplace connecting digital health operations at the political and implementation levels on the continent.
The network was unveiled at the just concluded 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) held in Kigali from October 17-19, 2023, which is open for all players in health.
At the time of launch (day three of the Mobile World Congress) 43 countries with 150 members had registered on individual and institutional level.
“We hope to build a network that will bring all innovations and unite digital health stakeholders across the continent,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Senior Technology Advisor who was also announced as the Chair for the next two years to lead the implementation of the network.
The network will be a non-profit organization but with plans to onboard investments and governments to ensure its implementation which will be mainly focused on improving the digital health marketplace.
“Basically we are going to form a kind of marketplace where buyers and sellers in digital health meet. And we hope to build a technology platform to help do all that,” Nsengimana explained.
Dr. Henry Mwanyike, the Digital Health Regional Director for Africa at the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) commended the need to create and operationalize political value propositions beyond health.
“We are going to make sure that digital health beyond health. We have to think of creating that political leadership beyond health and make sure we empower and deliver on our mandate,” Mwanyike said.
Brian O’Connor, the Chairman of ECHAlliance- a Global Connector for digital health said that the rest of the world doesn’t know what Africa has done so far in digital innovations, especially in health.
“We need to educate the other continents on what you (Africa) have done and let them see this and thus bring this network to the rest of the world,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor stated that his job at the network will be to tell the story of Africa and ensure it has global partners at a single point of contact.
“This is easier and fun if we are to do it together,” he added.
Professionals in the health sector will not have to worry about resources in the work as that platform will be a game changer to bring money on the table.
Dr. Tom Olouch immediate past president of Helina- an association of health professionals that brings 13 countries with Rwanda being the recent member this year, said that there is a need to onboard private players to expand partnerships.
As Private Sector, Dr. Amit Thakker, the chairman of Africa Health Business said the role of the private sector in digital health is going to make Africa a vibrant economy that has a value of $259billion.
“We know commodities, training, health workers are necessary but once we get this tool right, it is going to be the whole promise of digital health,” Thakker said.
Thakker stated that digital health has the largest proportion of value for money in africa and investing in it with enabling environment and infrastructure, will bring returns.
Development partners like Kirstin Grosse Frie, from German-African cooperation in global health, noted that formalizing this network will help to work together because many activities remain fragmented.
“We do a lot but as individuals. My work will be to find focal points and strong partners to drive this network and extend it beyond to other regions with diversity,”
This network will be architecture that will be inclusive and develop a road map that will by next year have member’s thoughts and inputs included.