The current panic that has gripped West Africa over the Ebola attack has not only exposed Africa’s soft underbelly in matters to do with health, but it is also an indictment to Africans in Diaspora. The outbreak which originated in Guinea and has killed over 80 people so far, has since spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, and is feared to reach Mali.
Many health systems in Africa are poorly equipped to deal with such epidemics. The health sector challenges include weak health infrastructure, limited tools, inadequate human resource capacity, limited public financing to the health sector, poor management and planning, lack of integrated health systems and misapplication of human, technical and financial resources. It is tragic that Africa, a continent that carries 25% of the world’s diseases imports around 70% of its pharmaceutical needs from abroad, and depends on foreign expertise.
The Ebola outbreak is a wakeup call for the continent to invest in its health systems with a view of breeding a critical mass of health practitioners that can handle potential, existing and projected health problems. Africa must do what the Chinese, Indians and Japanese have done -- visiting developed countries, learning what makes them tick and domesticating the findings to solve societal challenges back at home.