It’s a Europe-Kenya healthcare deal


Kenyatta National Hospital in this photo taken on December 10, 2019.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

The “Abuja declaration” from 2001 promised that African countries will reserve 15 per cent of the national budget for the health sector by 2015. The big task for the Health ministers is to increase state funding for and reduce inefficiencies and wastefulness in the sector.

Investing in the health of the population helps to build human capital, reduce poverty and inequality, shield the people from pandemics, improve workforce productivity and create employment opportunities.

Kenya is on the right path to reaching this target but a lot needs to be done. To deliver the Kenya Vision 2030 and Health Care Transformation Programme goals, half of the sector’s annual budget is allocated to the rehabilitation of healthcare infrastructure, including modernising 98 state-owned hospitals in the 47 counties. European companies and institutions are valuable partners in the transformation.

In Europe, high standards lay the foundation for quality services in the health sector, whether it is about medical equipment, hospital management systems, doctor and nurse training or pharmaceutical products. Continuous improvement ensures patients get the best possible care in public and private health facilities. This is also the reason why Europe is a primary destination for patients seeking specialised state-of-the-art medicare.

European manufacturers are widely known for quality products and accessibility of related professional maintenance services. Kenyan hospitals are getting equipped with Hungarian, Czech and other European medical devices and instruments, strengthening the health system.

Hungarian laboratory instruments, such as Norma Instruments’ blood analysers, assist the counties in delivering better services to patients. In Nyeri, a comprehensive cancer care centre is being constructed with Hungarian financing to alleviate the burden on the oncology departments of the county’s hospitals by bringing this essential service closer to central Kenya.

The Czech Republic has committed to donate an intensive care unit (ICU) for newborns at Coast General Hospital, in Mombasa, and has donated state-of-the-art hospital beds by the Czech company Linet to Kenyatta National Hospital.

As important as having adequate ‘working tools’ for the best healthcare is availability of trained staff to use and maintain them. When acquiring the hardware for hospitals and clinics, it is important to consider their life cycle. No country is rich enough to buy medical equipment that looks affordable on paper but will break down within months or that staff cannot operate. Products that will end up in a hospital or clinic corridor. Smart purchasing should insist on training the staff who will operate and maintain the equipment.

Investing in the future of healthcare is a common responsibility of all actors: Public sector, private investors and development partners. Hungary’s most important investment for the sector is  offering 200 fully funded scholarships every year to bright Kenyans. That gives them an opportunity to pursue their studies at Hungary’s world-class medical universities and return as highly skilled medical professionals.

The Czech Republic in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health in a proposed Czech Health Technology Institute to be set up in Kenya. Building on Czech expertise of precise manufacturing, the institute will offer technology training for biomedical engineers and hospital staff, run clinical courses and provide medical technology support. It will ensure the best and newest practices from Europe and elsewhere are shared with the Kenyan workforce in the healthcare sector.

Partnerships between European companies and their Kenyan counterparts are key in this regard. Successful private sector cooperation in the sector will lead to the overall development of healthcare in Kenya. When Czech and Hungarian companies evaluate who to partner with, one of the important criteria is the potential development impact.

Rather than small collaboration everywhere and with everyone, private companies prefer to create strong local partnerships and effectively help to grow a local eco-system in the sector. The focus should thus be on creating ‘centres of excellence’. That way, the healthcare system can develop expertise and knowledge in different areas, such as medical or technical specialisation. Centres of excellence are also known “hubs” for further innovations.

Just like in Europe, the high level of Kenyan health services already acts as a pull factor within the East-African region and makes Kenya a medical tourism destination. Focusing on and further developing this competitive advantage will be highly beneficial for the private and public health sector in the country. It could hugely contribute to economic growth by wooing patient-tourists from Africa to Kenya.

Ms Ledgard ([email protected] ) is head of Economic and Commercial Section, Embassy of the Czech Republic to Kenya. Ms Antal (@HungaryinKenya) is head of Trade and Development, Embassy of Hungary in Kenya.