BACKGROUND

Infrastructure development and upgrading of  Primary Healthcare facilities is an important step in the journey towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Primary Health Care is  firmly established as a standard of public commitment to making community-driven, quality health care accessible, both physically and financially, for all. This commitment is largely anchored on the landmark 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata which clarified many of the political, technical, social, administrative and educational aspects of Primary Health Care. 

Goal No. 3 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically focuses on access to quality healthcare and wellbeing, presents ambitious plans for universal health coverage for all by 2030. Accordingly, many countries have identified Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as the goal for their health systems, and Primary Healthcare is at the core of the strategy to achieving this. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as the desired performance of a successful healthcare system, whereby all people are provided with access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation) of sufficient quality to be effective without causing financial hardship.

Infrastructure development is thus, an important component of a well-functioning healthcare system. Achieving UHC entails implementing interventions that target both the supply – and demand-side of healthcare system. The supply side, infrastructural development, entails the construction and upgrading of physical facilities, equipped with internet, information systems, medical equipment, adequate skilled health workforce and utilities such as electricity, water, waste management facilities. The demand side is made up of activities that provide feedback to the health service providers through established social accountability framework like community score cards and ensuring that health services.

The sad reality however is that sub-Saharan Africa today faces a grim scenario with respect to the health of its people. The global coronavirus pandemic (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19), has become a catalyst that has exposed the fragility of Africa’s health systems and has put huge pressure on the health services and resources of almost every country in the continent. The continent’s poor health status is mirrored by crises in health financing, human resources, and poor infrastructure. ‘With only 2 percent of the global health workforce and only 1 percent of the world’s health expenditures, sub-Saharan African countries are ill-equipped to adequately address their health problems.  Low per capita income, limited capacity for domestic revenue mobilization, and pervasive health systems bottlenecks complicate governments’ ability to respond effectively to the health challenges in their countries.  Even with substantial external assistance, large gaps remain between available and needed resources.’

SUSTAINABLE DEVEOPMENT GOALS

In September 2015 the United Nations introduced the new global development agenda for 2015 through 2030 and adopted a set of seventeen SDGs, with 169 specific targets, encompassing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development.

Prominent among the goals are eradication of poverty and hunger, access to affordable and quality healthcare and education, dealing with climate and environmental degradation, and a range of other goals across building sustainable infrastructure and making cities more sustainable. The SDGs support peace and justice and promote economic growth that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable. These aspirations for human dignity are fully in line with the principles and objectives of development from an Islamic perspective (Maqasid Al-Sharia).

The Sustainable Development Goal 3, which specifically focuses on access to quality healthcare and wellbeing, presents ambitious plans for universal health coverage. These goals can only be achieved by developing healthcare infrastructure on a sustainable basis – preferably in cooperation with private service-providers.

PARTNERSHIPS AND THE ROLE OF ISLAMIC FINANCE

It is recognised that for the SDGs to be achieved by 2030 there has to be a high degree of co-operation and partnership across all stakeholder groups. SDG 17 focuses specifically on this issue, stating that: “… multi-stakeholder partnerships [are] important vehicles for mobilizing and sharing knowledge, expertise, technologies and financial resources to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, particularly developing countries. Goal 17 … seeks to encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships. ”

Given its emphasis on risk-sharing, linkages to real economic activities, partnership-based and equity-focused approaches, widened geographic reach and the rapid expansion of its global assets in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, Islamic finance possesses the unique potential to serve as a potent tool for mobilizing as yet untapped sources of liquidity to support strategies to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) in Africa.

As an organization which is committed to fostering the Islamic paradigm of economic development and enhancing primary healthcare infrastructure in Africa, the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation (AFRIEF) appears on the stage to play an active role in mobilizing Islamic Finance and human resources to support the strategic objectives and priorities of African countries to achieve UHC and the SDGs.