Tony Elumelu’s Global Vision To Empowering Healthcare

Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of the United Bank for Africa Group (UBA), and the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation has called on all stakeholders within and without the health sector to join forces and ensure that not just Africa but the world has a healthy future.

Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Health Forum, Tony, known for his philanthropy and entrepreneurship, as well as supporting startups and businesses across Africa, said that there is a huge gap within the health sector that needs innovations and support to grow.

“I invest in healthcare businesses in Africa – I see the daily challenges – and opportunities in healthcare in Africa. We run clinics and one of the largest HMOs in Nigeria. We want to democratize access to healthcare,” he said.

According to Tony, when it comes to supporting and growing healthcare in Africa and beyond, it is not just early-stage entrepreneurs and companies that make a difference through their new ideas and innovations.

“Big pharma also has a role to play here. To ensure a sustainable health future for all, there is a need to review the current patent system and effect reforms while still incentivizing innovation. There also needs to be incentives for big pharma to partner on R&D for diseases from lower-income countries. Incentives for investing in R&D and manufacturing facilities for big pharma in developing countries are also important — so leveraging the global trade system is also an important element of global health equality,” he said.

He said that Africa cannot fully progress through healthcare without accessible and affordable power. He said power and energy are the wheels that will help push the healthcare sector in the continent forward hence the need for more collaborations.

“We need to work innovatively across social sectors to achieve results. A high percentage of healthcare facilities in Africa do not have a reliable power supply (I think it’s around 40%) — without power, the health outcomes will be low. During the COVID pandemic, this was a major problem, as isolation wards had no power, it was also a challenge to store vaccines sent to the continent. The global renewable energy sector, both thermal and hydro energy sectors should step in to address this massive energy deficiency in Africa to realize health outcomes in Africa,” he added.

On Climate Change and Healthcare Delivery, Tony said there is a link between renewable energy and healthcare, with both linked via climate change. “We hear so much about available climate financing for renewable energy projects, as well as climate change adaptation and resilience projects — but what about unlocking climate funding for healthcare delivery as well — particularly on the margins where climate change is leading to new diseases, or diseases appearing in place they were not seen before. As healthcare issues are becoming more severe due to climate change, how can climate funds be accessed to address healthcare as well?”

He called on developed countries and global companies to come together, partner with Africa, and invest heavily within the sector.