The India-Africa Health Summit was organised by the governments of India, Ethiopia, the African Union and other stakeholders. It was attended by Dr. Harsh Vardhan Indian Minister for Health and family Welfare and Chairman, Executive Board, World Health organization, Mr. V Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, Dr. Lia Tadesse, the Minister of Health, Government of Ethiopia, Amira Elfadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission, Alem Tsehaye Wolemariam, the Dean of African Missions in India-Africa and senior officials of India, Ethiopia and the African Union.
India enjoys a special relationship with the countries of Africa because of shared civilizational values, anti-colonial struggle, and age old people to people ties. After independence of India, India’s relationship with African countries have grown many fold and matured in to an enduring partnership both in the regional and global context. Both India and the fellow developing countries of Africa are facing the common threat of Covid-19 pandemic not only to the life but also livelihood of their people.
The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of ensuring supply chain diversification and resilience, especially in the healthcare sector. It has made countries re-assess their healthcare infrastructure requirements; focus on availability and affordability of medicines, as well as development of reliable supply chains for critical healthcare products. The world has also realized that it needs more trusted and capable players now. India has the willingness and capability to act as a responsible partner as we are guided by the ancient philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or the world is one family.
Despite the pandemic, India has been able to rapidly increase its pharmaceutical production to respond to growing global demands. We supplied medicines to 150 countries including 35 African nations; deployed medical teams to our friend in distress. Because of our proactive assistance to the countries in need, India has come to be seen as the ‘Pharmacy of the world’.
India is ready to collaborate with the world, especially Africa towards this objective. India also sees health services as an important vector in India’s engagement with Africa. New Delhi understands and appreciates the priorities of her African partners. India has taken note of the Agenda 2063 aimed to achieve a more prosperous Africa through inclusive and sustainable development. The main element of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 and of Agenda 2063 is to ensure good health and wellness of all citizens by 2063 through access to aﬀordable and quality health care services.
India too is committed to the SDGs and its commitment to universal access to good quality health care, as outlined in India’s National Health Policy 2017, this has been factored into the India-Africa development partnership especially in those areas where Indian experience and remedies could be most suitably adapted to Africa’s health care needs.
To carry forward the strategic vision of the India Africa Forum Summit-III through a structured partnership in the health sector, India’s Ministry of External Affairs in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), held the first India-Africa Health Sciences Meet in 2016 in New Delhi.
Ministry of External Affairs launched the Pan African e-Network Project (PAENP) in 2009 with a project cost of Rs. 542 Cores. The project envisaged setting up of an e-network connecting Indian institutions with 53 countries of Africa through satellite and fibre optic links, and providing tele-education and telemedicine services to them. The project has been commissioned in 48 countries that have signed the agreement with Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) for participating in it. The first phase of this programme was over in 2017 and now we are offering 1500 scholarships over a period of 5 years through the second phase of the project renamed as e-VidhyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati Network Project (E-VBAB).
Tele-medicine project has become a milestone in the India-Africa relations. Through this mechanism, medical practitioners at the Patient End Location in Africa can consult on-line Indian medical specialists in various disciplines/specialties selected by African Union for its Member States. Patient consultation centres have already been set up in 12 Indian Super Specialty Hospitals including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.
It is imperative that Government and industry leaders both in India and African countries come together to help create a mechanism through which we can have a conducive policy, regulatory and legal framework around which public-private partnership models can be developed seamlessly on a sustainable basis.
Script: Padam Singh, AIR: News Analyst