It has been a year to the day since I started my new role leading the GE Healthcare business in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The year has continued to experience heightened anxieties, further lockdowns and personal losses. The effect on economies, education and healthcare systems in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to be felt and are exacerbated by what can be described as discriminatory vaccine policies and travel restrictions on many African countries during the emergence of Omicron variant in recent weeks.”
As a result, countries, businesses, and individuals have been forced to adapt.
The pandemic illuminated gaps in healthcare infrastructure across the continent. With grounded flights and closed borders. It impacted people’s ability to travel for quality care, which brought a focus on filling those gaps closer to home. Plans were developed to bolster healthcare infrastructure in every Sub-Saharan African country so that communities would have access without needing to travel.
Now, we have an unparalleled opportunity to have the biggest impact on healthcare infrastructure in generations. We have political and economic focus, a faster decision-making culture, and the opportunity to implement digital and artificial intelligence-enabled solutions that can bring better healthcare to more people. Funding is also being made available by local and global financial institutions that have invested millions of dollars in the healthcare sector this year to create opportunities and arrive at the right solutions to save lives.
Accessibility is one of the main issues in SSA. What changed this year was the speed in which key projects were delivered in both the public and private sectors. As part of our ongoing commitment to provide quality healthcare, GE Healthcare contributed to a number of major projects this year.
We inaugurated a first-of-its-kind comprehensive Cancer Center with Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital (KUTRRH). The Center will provide lifesaving equipment along the cancer care pathway – from screening and diagnosis to staging to determining treatment. The Duchess International Hospital also opened in Lagos, as a multi-specialty privately-owned hospital. GE Healthcare completed the delivery and installation of equipment with a full range of solutions for improved healthcare across Nigeria. In Uganda, the first Afri-Egypt Health diagnostic center opened through a partnership between GE Healthcare and AFRIPHARMA. The center includes potentially life-saving equipment to better serve the surrounding communities. Finally, we continued to deliver on our services contracts across SSA.
To accomplish all of this, and continue our success into next year, we have been focused on our local workforce. Localization is the best strategy for long-term success because local teams are invested in their own communities. Our employees have the resilience, drive, and ability to overcome tremendous obstacles. In the past year, traditional business models were largely torn up and thrown out the window. Instead, we found creative thinking, flexibility, and the ability to figure things out in record time were implemented to adapt to the new environment – and this approach continues to be met with success.
The pressure of quick decision making made a difference for and motivated individuals within the organization as nothing else had in the past. Decisions that historically took months had to be done within days and being in crisis management mode actually made us perform better. If I look back over the last year, I would say there were very few bad decisions made. Instead, we reduced bureaucracy and focused on what matters. Since COVID, we have learned to look at things in a lean way, cutting out the waste. I think it challenged how a business operates, and the healthcare infrastructure across SSA benefitted.
Improving lives in moments that matter
SSA has seen incredible growth and serves as a market where healthcare can ‘break new ground’ in terms of innovative models and solutions. Across the continent, GE works as part of an ecosystem to deliver tailor-made services that look beyond just technology to offer solutions and make a positive impact. The focus is always on partnerships and the patient. They are at the center of everything we do as we work to help clinicians make more accurate diagnoses, reduce incidents of disease, and improve outcomes.
To me, in 2020, we were laying the groundwork – monitoring and doing our research on how to adapt to change and new challenges. 2021 was a year of action, speed, and innovation. Looking ahead, we must all work together to rise to challenge and I can see that all the stars are aligned.
In the coming years I expect to see the biggest ever improvement in healthcare infrastructure to date. This will be accelerated further by the actualisation of the African Continental Free Trade area, which will have a significant impact on accelerating trade across the continent. This is expected to be a game-changer for development ambitions, especially for the healthcare sector over the medium term. It provides a unique opportunity to promote inclusive growth and accelerate the post-pandemic recovery.
We have done solid work this year, and we are poised for success as we look to 2022. We are improving lives in moments that matter for communities that matter, and that is truly a reason to be proud.
(By Eyong Ebai)