Forging pathways to universal health coverage in Africa

June 27, 2023 by Nanthalile Mugala, MD, MMed

PATH’s Dr. Nanthalile Mugala reflects on the innovation, partnerships, and people driving health equity in Africa.

Nanthalile Mugala, MD, MMed, is PATH’s Chief of the Africa Region. Photo: PATH/Francis Kaira.

Nanthalile Mugala, MD, MMed, is PATH’s Chief of the Africa Region. Photo: PATH/Francis Kaira.

As Chief of the Africa Region at PATH, I am privileged to witness the transformative power of our organization's work in advancing health equity across the continent. PATH's unwavering commitment to partnerships and innovative approaches continues to play a pivotal role in addressing the urgent health needs of Africa's diverse communities, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and ever-changing health challenges.

Today, I invite you to join me on a journey as I reflect upon PATH’s remarkable achievements in Africa and the inspiring power of partnerships in saving lives and transforming futures.

Unlocking the potential of expertise

Imagine a world where expertise in science, health, economics, technology, and advocacy converge to create life-changing solutions for Africa's most pressing public health issues. PATH, with its rich legacy built over the past four decades, is turning this vision into reality.

By harnessing a wealth of knowledge and working hand in hand with our partners, we are developing game-changing innovations that are transforming the landscape of health equity in Africa.

Emmanuel Mugisha, for example, is advancing immunization across the continent. And in Tanzania, PATH’s Henry Mwanyika leads an initiative to use digital health to transform the continent’s health systems. From groundbreaking research to scalable interventions, our experts are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Senegal, and beyond, serving as a guiding light towards a healthier future for all.

Creating collaborative pathways

In the quest for health equity, collaboration is our most powerful ally. At PATH, we firmly believe in the strength of partnerships. Through ongoing collaborations with governments, foundations, businesses, and public organizations, we have built a thriving network of experts who understand the unique challenges of the African context.

This network not only fosters the development of innovative solutions but also instills a sense of collective responsibility and impact shared by everyone involved. Together, we are rewriting the narrative of health equity in Africa.

Pioneering innovations

Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, PATH's unwavering commitment to partnership-driven strategies has yielded remarkable results. Working hand in hand with various stakeholders, we have tackled critical health challenges head-on, from addressing the shortages of medical oxygen and personal protective equipment to scaling up digital health initiatives when they were most needed.

Our collective actions have saved countless lives and inspired hope in the face of adversity. Perhaps the most notable testament to our collaborative efforts is the groundbreaking research, development, and distribution of the world’s first malaria vaccine, which is now being introduced in several African countries. This is an achievement that will forever change the landscape of malaria prevention and treatment across the continent. 

A historic milestone at the WHA76

On May 24, 2023, history was made as the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the African Union Member States came together under the auspices of the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA76) in Geneva.

This momentous event marked a resounding commitment to advancing Africa's health product manufacturing initiative—a pivotal step towards addressing the manufacturing gap and ensuring access to high-quality health products for all Africans. Once formally established, the harmonized Africa health manufacturing platform will be a beacon of coordination and collaboration among African Union Member States and global partners.

This transformative vision promises equitable access to lifesaving health products, bolstering health outcomes, enhancing security, and fostering economic growth. PATH is honored to be an integral part of this historic journey, and we are determined to continue our collaboration with the Africa CDC and the African Union Member States in shaping a future where health equity is the cornerstone to universal health coverage.

Prospects for the future and important lessons

As we take note of PATH's ongoing impact in Africa, we recognize that our mission is far from over. The steps we are taking together to increase health product manufacturing in Africa are commendable, yet they are just the beginning. To unlock the full potential of health equity, we must make long-term investments, forge coordinated initiatives, and strengthen regulatory systems.

By aligning with the Africa CDC's New Public Health Order for Africa, PATH aims to increase the frequency of routine immunizations and access to critical health products through sustainable manufacturing initiatives. Our ultimate goal is to support the Africa CDC in ensuring that by 2040, more than 60 percent of the total vaccine doses and critical health products required in Africa are researched, developed, produced, and supplied locally. This ambitious vision will not only save lives but also equip Africa to shape its own health care destiny.

As we stand at the crossroads of possibility, let us unite in our commitment to health equity in Africa. Together, we can turn the tide, bridge the gaps, and create a future where every individual has equitable access to lifesaving health solutions. And it’s happening, one partnership after another!

As we stand at the crossroads of possibility, let us unite in our commitment to health equity in Africa.