Africa Health Tech Summit 2023 - Kigali
Report of the summit


Kaikai had the opportunity to participate in the Africa Health Tech Summit 2023 (#AHTS2023), which took place from October 17-19 in Kigali.

Co-hosted by Africa CDC and Smart Africa, this premier event was all about "Digital Health - Empowering People, Transforming Communities." We  joined over 1,000 leaders, policymakers, investors, experts, and innovators from across the continent and beyond to shape the future of healthcare in Africa through digital innovation.

We had the chance to share our learnings from our Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH / Invest for Jobs - Special Initiative "Decent Work for a Just Transition" funded project of leveraging IHE in #Senegal to demonstrate the sharing of medical data between local solutions via open standards. 

This article is a report of the highlights of the event from our perspective.

Day 1 Highlights: Africa Health Tech Summit 2023

The inaugural day of AHTS2023 brought insightful discussions and valuable insights. The official opening, chaired by President Paul Kagame, set the stage for Africa's digital transformation with a focus on "Empowering People, Transforming Communities."

Three pivotal actions were emphasized for maximum impact:

  • Closing the usage gap. 

  • Forging bold partnerships. 

  • Investing in sustainable digital transformation.

President Kagame emphasized the power of collaboration, stating, "We can achieve more, faster, by working together."

One of the most engaging sessions addressed "Putting People First: The Stated Future of Person-Centered Digitized Primary Health in Africa." The Commons Project shed light on the imperative to digitize primary healthcare in Africa, primarily due to the current paper-based healthcare system. Key elements for a digitized healthcare system include data privacy, open standards, upskilling of stakeholders, enabling primary health teams, and fostering job creation and entrepreneurship.

In the realm of digital health policies and open data standards, several challenges were identified across countries, including issues related to interoperability, leadership, and security.

The session on "Digital Innovations for Community Health: Advancing Equity and Sustainability" highlighted the importance of better data, insights, actions, and outcomes. Key factors for Africa's digital maturity in healthcare include addressing private/public sector disparities, enhancing Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, achieving universal mHealth, scalability, and adapting to a shift from acute diseases to chronic conditions.

In another session on Onehealth data harmonization, we were reminded to start from the needs and not just try to set up complex data analysis systems for the sake of demonstrating it. Also another key aspect was how to assess data quality.

In conclusion, as Mats Granryd highlighted, "Digital transformation brings endless opportunities," but it necessitates strong collaboration, partnerships, and leadership to unlock the full potential of digital innovations in the healthcare sector.

Day 2 Highlights: Africa Health Tech Summit 2023

As Day 2 of the Africa Health Tech Summit 2023 unfolded, two critical sessions delved into pressing issues and potential solutions for advancing healthcare in the digital age.

One Health In The Digital Age: A Holistic Approach

In the session on "One Health In The Digital Age," a stark reality emerged - Africa bears a heavy burden of emerging, re-emerging, and endemic zoonoses. The majority of these diseases have an animal origin, with a concerning 75% classified as zoonoses. A notable 63% surge in diseases transmitted from animals to humans in Africa accentuates the urgency of the matter.

The nexus between increased demand for animal products, heightened disease incidence, and the triggering of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) calls for a comprehensive, multisectoral, and multidisciplinary intervention. The One Health approach was underscored as critical, emphasizing the interconnectedness of human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health. Breaking the silo mentality is imperative in tackling these complex health challenges effectively.

Transform Health: Strengthening Health Data Governance in Africa

The session on "Transform Health" centered around the crucial theme of strengthening health data governance in Africa. The imperative to improve governance stems from addressing critical issues related to data privacy, ownership, sharing, and access.

Enhanced governance of health data promises multifaceted benefits:

  • Efficiency and Performance: Reduction of fragmentation, duplicative systems, and wastage leads to increased efficiency and performance in public health investments.

  • Evidence-based Decision Making: Improved evidence-based decision-making fosters stronger and more equitable health systems.

  • Emergency Response: Strengthening health data governance enhances the responsiveness of health systems during emergencies.

  • Research and Innovation: Advancements in research and innovation are fueled by a well-governed health data ecosystem.

  • UHC and SDG Goals: Improved governance is pivotal in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

  • Public Trust: Building public trust is a foundational element, critical for fostering data use for public good.

The consensus-building process for minimum standards in health data governance regulation was highlighted as a crucial step. This involves political commitment, alignment, and consensus among countries, serving as a guiding resource for strengthening regulations. A focus on the regulatory environment ensures accountability, laying the foundation for improved public trust in health data systems.

Flagship Initiative Objectives:

  • Develop an African Common Position on Health Data Governance to establish common regulatory standards for adoption.

  • Create technical guidance and tools to support governments in assessing and strengthening their health data governance.

  • Drive government leadership in prioritizing health data governance, supporting the development of minimum standards, and garnering international endorsements.

In summary, Day 2 of AHTS2023 provided profound insights into the urgency of a holistic One Health approach and the critical importance of robust health data governance for Africa's healthcare evolution. These discussions underscored the interconnectedness of these issues and the imperative for collaborative, data-driven solutions to shape a healthier future for the continent.

Day 3 Highlights: Africa Health Tech Summit 2023

On the conclusive day of the Africa Health Tech Summit 2023, we split to attend different sessions: participation in the Team Europe Workshop and unveiling of the WHO Digital Health Priorities as well as the launch of the Africa Digital Health Network.

Soft Launch of the Africa Digital Health Network

Africa Digital Health Network is an initiative to create a network of communities promoting Digital Health in Africa. It attempts to succeed where other initiatives failed. 

The soft-launch announced different working groups, founding members. The initiative is carried out by Africa CDC and African Union, and has founding members like PATH, Helina (Health Informatics in Africa). Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Chief Digital Advisor, Africa CDC is leading this effort.

The initiative shares 7 Ps:

  • People - Putting people first

  • Policies - Shaping an enabling environment for digital health to thrive

  • Projects - Being action and result driven

  • Partnerships - Harnessing the power of collaboration between governments, private sector, innovators, investors, and academia

  • Profits - Unleashing home-grown health tech innovation and breeding domestic healthtech unicorns

  • Platforms - Promoting inclusive, safe and secure, sustainable, scalable, and interoperable technologies

  • Professionalism - We believe in upholding the highest standards of professionalism in the development, deployment, and use of digital health solutions.

The initiative is planning to open membership to governments, technical communities, healthtech companies, national society associations, health providers, academia, development agencies, and investors.

Team Europe Workshop: Shaping Health Priorities

The Team Europe Workshop spotlighted three priority areas that form the cornerstone of their strategic approach to improving health and well-being across Africa:

  • Better Health Across the Life Course: Emphasizing equity, lifestyles, and rights.

  • Strengthening Health Systems for Universal Health Coverage: Focused on equitable access to health services and products.

  • Preventing and Combating Health Threats through a "One Health" Approach: Encompassing planetary health, pandemic preparedness, and response.

The workshop underscored the significance of addressing drivers of ill health through a "Health in All Policy" approach. It identified three key enablers crucial for achieving better health: Digitalization, Research, and a Skilled Labor Force. The EU-AU partnership in health, articulated through the Global Gateway Prosperity Package - Health, unveiled four flagship initiatives:

  • Support to COVID-19 Vaccine Supply and Rollout

  • Manufacturing & Access to Vaccines, Medicines & Health Techs (MAV+)

  • Strengthening Health Systems and Capacity for Pandemic Preparedness, Digital, and Public Health

  • Enabled Environment for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in SSA

The Simplified Joint Intervention Logic emphasized the impact of strong, digitally enabled health systems in accelerating the achievement of universal health coverage in Africa. The specific objective is to strengthen health systems, including pandemic preparedness, through digital strategies and interventions.

Team Europe: A Collaborative Response to Health Emergencies

Born during the Covid-19 emergency response, Team Europe is a joint EC/EU Member States approach with shared objectives. It pools resources and expertise, serving as a coordination mechanism to amplify the EU's visibility. The collaborative approach aims to streamline efforts and resources towards common health goals, fostering increased EU visibility on the continent.

WHO Digital Health Priorities: A Global Vision for Health Transformation

Following the Team Europe presentation, the focus shifted to the WHO Digital Health Priorities shaped by the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-25. The main objective is to improve health globally by accelerating the development and adoption of suitable digital health solutions to achieve the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Why the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) is Needed:

  • Lack of enabling governance & policy environment.

  • Funding discordance and misalignment, duplication.

  • Absence of costed digital health strategies and implementation roadmaps.

  • Lack of interoperability architecture & shared services.

  • Inadequate training & human capacity at national or regional levels.

  • Inconsistent quality assurance of technology.

Goals of the GIDH:

  • Align and optimize resources with country priorities for national digital health transformation.

  • Reduce the risk of entropy and prevent wheel reinvention.

  • Support countries to manage an interoperable digital health ecosystem.

  • Accelerate measurable progress over time in ecosystem maturity.

  • Improve access to quality-assured digital solutions and technical assistance.

  • Promote knowledge sharing across regions.

In conclusion, Day 3 of the Africa Health Tech Summit 2023 marked a strategic leap forward, unveiling collaborative initiatives and global priorities that underscore the transformative potential of digital health in Africa. The commitment of Team Europe and the WHO to drive impactful change sets the stage for a future where digital innovation becomes a cornerstone in achieving comprehensive, equitable healthcare for all

Main trends and key takeaways

  • Focus is shifting 

    • from siloed programs (TB, HIV, …) to Country-led strategies and investments (especially East Africa but increasingly other countries, for example DRC)

    • from focus on program reporting systems to patient transaction systems (Donors increasingly aware of damaging effect of previous investments)

    • From Integration and APIs to Interoperability and standards

    • towards Digitalization of community health programs and primary health care

  • At the digital health summit, interoperability takes center stage, highlighting its crucial role in shaping healthcare innovation and collaboration. The focus on seamless data exchange underscores a shared commitment to leveraging digital technologies for a more connected and effective healthcare ecosystem.

  • East Africa is further when it comes to interoperability, standards. Several countries have put it at the core of their digital health investments (Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya)

  • AfricaCDC taking lead role in driving digital health discussions from an African perspective

  • Increasing activity of private sector and private foundations (Africa Health Business, IqVia, Cepheid, Commons project, etc).

Africa Health Tech Summit 2023 - Kigali
Dieudonné Fortune Gnanguenon 30 November, 2023
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