Africa can achieve the SDGs if the right changes are made – Prof Aryeetey 

By Samuel Akumatey

Ho, May 23, GNA – Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), has called on African nations to work together with donors and other partners to address the challenge of insufficient domestic funding. 

He stressed the need for African nations to adopt pragmatic steps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Prof Aryeetey was delivering the 7th John Evan Evans Atta Mills Memorial Lecture Series of the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS). 

The former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana’s lecture was on the topic “The Economics of Achieving the Health SDGs in Africa.”  

Using simplified graphs, he illustrated commendable progress along the health SDGs, but said it was still short of expected targets. 

He said the Continent continued to be battered by familiar challenges including poverty and inequality, high disease burden, conflicts, and economic crisis. 

“Africa’s progress is ok, but it is not enough. We are moving in the right direction, but it is not enough,” Prof Aryeetey said. 

Divesting the successes with the individual targets of the health Goals, Prof. Aryeetey noted how more was required in areas including the improvement of sexual and reproductive health, and the attainment of Universal Health Coverage. 

He said household health spending needed to improve, and so was efforts to stem environmental pollution. 

Prof Aryeetey said there was the need to greatly improve the reduction of the child mortality rate, saying the health situation was “dire for African communities.” 

He also said smoking habits in Africa “has gone up considerably,” particularly among young people, and should be addressed. 

The Secretary General advised that Governments on the Continent sought sustainable finances for the goals, saying, “developmental assistance from external sources is not very stable funding.” 

He noted how about 75 per cent of research and development in the health sector on the Continent focused on infectious diseases, and that there was the need to consider non-communicable diseases also. 

“Supporting non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases together would be of benefit, so that those who work with them would work together. The risk of getting infectious diseases through non-communicable diseases is high.” 

Prof. Aryeetey called on African governments to increase funding to the health sector and said although they had committed to spending about 15 per cent of GDP, only 5 to 6 per cent was being invested. 

He said an average USD 40 is spent on health per individual on the continent, and which diminished in comparison to domains spending USD 500 to 1,000 and added also that out-of-pocket expenditure for health “is a problem for many,” accounting for about 33 per cent of personal income. 

The Professor said nonetheless, African countries showed continuous investment in health and in necessary reforms, yet, lacked investments in health systems to ensure they functioned effectively. 

He said there was “too much tolerance for poor health systems,” and that “we should take the politics out” to be able to effectively achieve the Goals. 

The Professor said analysts estimated an annual investment of US$ 274 billion to be able to attain the health Goals. 

The John Evans Atta Mills Memorial Lecture was instituted to honor the late President had established the University as Ghana’s prime health training institution, through an Act of Parliament. 

Prof Aryeetey was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University for his role in its establishment. 

The Professor, who was then head of the University of Ghana, was recognised for his efforts to ensure the best hands established the foundations of the prized health university.