Five countries of the East African Community (EAC) are still struggling to raise funding needed for health research and development – with 3 of the members able to afford less than 1% of what is needed.
Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi need a combined $496.88m annually which they agreed to put into developing ways to improve the health of their population. There is no data for sixth member South Sudan.
However, for 2016 they could only raise $301.71m from both their budgets and external funding. They are 39.28% less of the funding needed
But then again, from this amount the bloc can raise, 85.5 % of it comes from donors, according to report of EAC health ministers adopted in October last year. It was made public last week October 25.
This issue, and many other affecting the region’s health sector, is being reviewed at a forum ongoing this week (October 28-November 1) in Nairobi, Kenya. EAC health ministers and its donor partners are looking for ways to increase investment in health.
Research and development in health is a very crucial part of a country’s economic system. Money put into this sector allows for development of medical products, intervention systems to health problems in the country and enables government to design appropriate health policies.
In 2008, Africa played host to the Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health, in Bamako, Mali. Delegates set targets for increasing investments in research for health.
Though not mandatory, governments committed to allocate at least 2% of budgets of ministries of health to research and development agencies and to earmark at least 5% of funding for research.
In the EAC region, the 19th Summit of East African Heads of State held in February last year in Kampala-Uganda, endorsed the EAC Health Sector Investment priority Priorities 2018-2020.
It include 9 key investment priority areas for health and health R&D. The leaders also directed the partner states to mobilize resources required to support the implementation.
However, resource constraints pose significant challenges to health
research initiatives in EAC.
As in much of the developing world, the region is not immune to the 10/90 gap where less than 10% of current global financing for health research is spent on diseases afflicting more than 90% of the population.
Data available shows that Rwanda in 2016 needed $25.42m for health research. However, it could only raise $19.4m – of which just about $79,610 (Rwf 73m) came from national health budget. The rest was from donors.
Burundi needed $7.9m for the same period, but its government allocated $63,372 (Rwf 58m or about Fbu 100m).
For Kenya, it planned to spend $249m on health research. Less than 10% of this amount came from the country’s health budget.
Tanzania, the region’s largest country, had a health research budget of $77m. Less than 10 percent came from government coffers.
Uganda for its part required $136.4m, but the government in Kampala could afford 8% of the total needed.
Among ways the EAC government are considering to increase how much they invest in health research, includes bond programs for diaspora, tax on imported medical products, and setting up the East Africa Health
Research Fund with an annual financing capacity of $20 million.
Globally, pharmaceutical companies are among the top investors in R&D in the health science sector, but this is not the case in Africa. Few African companies have R&D units or R&D directors to oversee product development and technology transfer.
In general though, funding for R&D (research and development) remains very small on the continent. In 2016, Africa accounted for 1.1% (US$22.3 billion) of global investments in R&D.
Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa accounted for 65.7%, or US$14.66 billion, of Africa’s total R&D spending, according to industry experts.