The University of Cape Town (UCT) is one of the nine partners in the new Africa Higher Education Health Collaborative (AHEHC), a pioneering initiative aimed at strengthening primary healthcare across Africa and empowering the continent’s health sector through transformative education and innovation.
Since its inception in 2012, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has been a beacon of hope for young people across Africa, providing unparalleled opportunities to pursue their dreams, uplift their families, and make lasting contributions to their communities. The Mastercard Foundation is proud to build upon the scholars’ programme’s legacy of transformative impact with the launch of the AHEHC, a groundbreaking 10-year initiative to revolutionise primary healthcare across the continent.
Africa, home to 16% of the world’s population, currently faces a significant shortage of skilled health workers, with only 2.2 skilled health workers per 1 000 population – one-third of the global average. By 2030, there will be a shortage of about six million skilled health workers. This, combined with the fact that the health sector in Africa contributes only about 5% to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP), compared to the global average of 10%), underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions to unlock the sector’s untapped economic potential.
“At UCT, we endeavour to make meaningful, transformative and sustainable contributions towards addressing primary healthcare and similar challenges in a way that delivers societal impact.”
UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, Professor Sue Harrison, said the university is proud to be part of the collaborative, which aligns with its endeavour to contribute towards finding African solutions to Africa’s challenges.
“The AHEHC brings together collaborating partners from universities in Africa and beyond our continent, all of them working together to address some of the primary healthcare challenges we face,” Professor Harrison said.
“At UCT, we endeavour to make meaningful, transformative and sustainable contributions towards addressing primary healthcare and similar challenges in a way that delivers societal impact, changes lives and delivers new knowledge centred on our context – all simultaneously. This collaboration is another opportunity for us to make such contribution.”
Associate Professor Tracey Naledi, the deputy dean of Social Account and Health Systems in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), highlighted the importance of this collaboration.
“As the Faculty of Health Sciences, we are so pleased to be part of this health collaborative that we anticipate will be a massive catalyst for our social accountability strategy aiming to address the priority health concerns of the communities we serve. We are excited to partner with other faculties at UCT (Humanities and the UCT Graduate School of Business); the Western Cape government, civil society and communities in Klipfontein, Saldanha and George/Knysna/Bitou sub districts.”
Explaining the focus of the programme, the head of department for Primary Health Care Directorate in the FHS Professor Steve Reid said: “We have named the project ‘Healthy Futures South Africa’ because our focus is on youth, health and employment, and it will be housed in the new Department of Family, Community and Emergency Care. This collaboration and funding are fantastic opportunities to make a sustainable difference in the health of young people through training and education, at the same time strengthening primary healthcare systems in the three learning sites.”
“We aim to create a sustainable impact on population health and unlock significant economic growth across the continent.”
Peter Materu, the chief programme officer at the Mastercard Foundation, explained that the AHEHC sought to leverage universities to address the critical challenges facing the health sector in Africa and in the process create work opportunities for young people. “By strengthening primary healthcare, enhancing workforce development, and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, we aim to create a sustainable impact on population health and unlock significant economic growth across the continent.”
The AHEHC focuses on three pillars of work to achieve its objectives:
The AHEHC recognises that unlocking the full potential of the health sector requires addressing barriers that hinder progress, particularly in primary healthcare. These barriers include poor human resources capacity and access to health services, weak incentive structures, unaffordability of care, poor access to health services and fragmented health systems.
The collaborative envisions a transformative impact on primary healthcare across Africa through strategic interventions. This includes equipping 30 000 skilled health practitioners and community health workers to deliver innovative and high-quality primary healthcare services, fostering overall community wellness, and contributing to economic transformation.
Additionally, the collaborative aims to nurture over 10 000 innovative and sustainable health ventures, creating a vibrant network of health entrepreneurial ecosystems. Working collaboratively with a shared vision, AHEHC seeks to build a robust network of partners, sharing best practices and lessons to create healthier and more prosperous communities.
The partners in this collaborative include Amref International University, Addis Ababa University, African Leadership University, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Ashesi University, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Moi University, UCT, and University of Toronto.
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