Lacking the financial support it says it needs to fight the spread of bird flu, Africa has not received any of the money it was promised at the international bird flu conference in Beijing last month. With news of the spread of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in northern Nigeria, these funds are now urgently needed to update laboratories, improve diagnostic services on a regional level, and provide the capacity to purchase animal vaccines. Some of the money intended for Africa was also meant to help governments compensate their citizens for any domestic birds that needed to be culled, and to step up information campaigns in rural areas.
Resource allocation and health financing
Member states of the African Union pledged at the 2001 Abuja summit to commit at least 15% of national budgets to healthcare but 6 years later have largely failed to do so. This failure amongst others has resulted in the annual loss of an estimated 8 million African lives to preventable, treatable and manageable diseases and health conditions. In other words Africa has lost a staggering estimated 40 million lives since 2001 due to a failure to develop, implement and fund comprehensive Public Health policies alone. African governments are not yet all working collectively or quickly enough to analyse and resolve the long term big picture and real scale of Africa’s health catastrophe. Many appear to be relying mainly on international efforts from wealthy philanthropists, donor countries and facilities such as the Global Fund to resolve Africa’s accumulated Public Health problems. Some are also still focusing on only some specific diseases without long-term perspectives to ensure that Public Health is comprehensively promoted to resolve what are essentially interlinked symptoms of one problem – the lack of a comprehensive long term Public Health policy and planning across Africa.
After a decade of high growth, a new narrative of optimism has taken hold about Africa and its economic prospects. Despite this, there is a broad
consensus that progress in human development has been limited given the volume of wealth created. There is growing concern that the high levels of
income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa are holding back progress. This report investigates the issue of income inequality in eight sub-Saharan African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe). While there is growing public recognition that inequality is the issue for our time - both globally and in sub-Saharan Africa – there is little definitive analysis of income inequality trends on the continent. This report seeks to contribute in this area, looking at whether income inequality is, in fact, rising and in what context this is occurring. In particular, this report seeks to locate an analysis of tax systems in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of these economic inequalities, given the primary importance of national tax systems in redistributing wealth. A central contention of this report is that rising income inequality is going hand in hand with – and is ultimately caused by – the current growth model, illicit financial flows and the the inability of governments to tax the proceeds of growth, because a large part of sub-Saharan Africa’s income and wealth has escaped offshore. This report also finds many shortcomings in direct taxation in the countries studied. The personal income tax (PIT) systems lack equity as the bulk of the burden is on employees. The self-employed rarely pay tax. The visible lack of equity erodes citizens’ trust in the system. While the report notes some signs of progress, such as some mineral taxation reforms, there is also a clear gap between rhetoric and reality. There is national and international consensus that it is urgent to address issues such as tax incentives, extractives taxation, the taxation of HNWI, tax evasion and illicit financial flows. However, countries are struggling to introduce new direct taxes and to enforce tax compliance against companies and elites. Support to make such transformational changes is reported to be inadequate.
An HIV/AIDS vaccine offers the best hope of controlling the pandemic in Africa, leading scientists have said at the opening of a two-day meeting of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP) in Cape Town, South Africa. HIV/AIDS was a "nightmare" for Africa but the development of a vaccine for the continent was a "dream worth dreaming", Jose Esparaza, coordinator of the World Health Organisation (WHO)/UNAIDS HIV Vaccine Initiative, told about 200 delegates attending the meeting. Two-thirds of all people living with HIV are in Africa, yet African vaccine research received only 1.6 percent of the US $2.5 billion spent on HIV research annually, he said.
HIV/AIDS is an enormous development crisis and debt repayment represents a remarkable obstacle to the fight against it. HIV/AIDS claims more than one million lives each year in heavily indebted countries. Half of the countries receiving debt relief under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Countries Initiative are still spending 15 per cent or more of government revenue on debt repayment. This paper, produced by Oxfam, highlights that repayments to creditors by these countries are diverting resources needed to find a solution to this terrible pandemic. Debt repayment is taking precedence over human needs. In order to convert debt transfers into public investments in health, a radical reform of the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative is required so that these countries can spend more on public health than on debt and so that debt relief can be seen as a strategy for creating more resources.
Unless there is a coordinated international response to the HIV/AIDS crisis there will be 45 million new infections by 2010, says a report in the latest Population Bulletin. The report says that even as HIV/AIDS continues its rapid spread most countries still lack the will, the commitment, and the resources to create effective HIV/AIDS programs. "It seems inconceivable that an infectious disease could so quickly reverse gains in health and development of the past five decades in less developed countries, but it is happening. It is even more astounding that the world has been so slow to react to the threat," the report states.
African civil society organizations have called for greater accountability and transparency from African leaders regarding the use of public funds for the survival of mothers and babies. This call to action marks the launch of an African-led network demanding better use of existing funds for African women and children’s health as well as a greater share of African national budgets allocated to mothers and babies’ survival. While most African government have already made commitments about improving the health of their population, including through greater spending, it is difficult to check whether they are keeping their promises if the budget is not publicly available or if the information in the budget is not clearly presented. The members of the Africa Health Budget Network have compiled a scorecard showing how open African Governments are about their health spending. Out of the 26 African countries profiled, only one, South Africa, is reported to be sufficiently transparent.
At the close of the African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit, health experts and activists from across Africa expressed grave concern that leaders are not delivering on fundamental commitments to expand investments in maternal and child health and other life-saving health services, including treatment and prevention for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Although the AU Summit asserted that universal access to quality healthcare is a human right, the advocates expressed disappointment at the overall outcome – particularly regarding mobilising additional resources needed to save lives and advance maternal and child health. For example, the Declaration on Maternal and Child Health has committed AU Members to ‘enhancing domestic resources’ but not to a concrete, time bound increase in domestic investment in health. Activists also challenged donor governments to keep their health funding promises, including the commitment to scale up investments in order to reach universal access to HIV treatment and prevention.
The 46 African member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have reiterated the importance of the African Public Health Emergency Fund (APHEF) at the 62nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa. At the same time, the meeting urged all members to remit their outstanding 2012 contributions to the APHEF and requested the regional director in the interim period to mobilise, manage and disburse the contributions to the APHEF whilst waiting for a decision from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to take up the proposed role of trustee for the APHEF. The ministers of health were urged to work with their finance ministers to gain support for the creation of the trust fund account by the AfDB and ensure the inclusion of a budget line in their national budget for 2012 outstanding contributions to the APHEF. Some countries noted that there was a need to consider an interim mechanism to ensure that payments are made since there were still logistical issues to be dealt with by the AfDB, while Malawi criticised the AfDB for being too bureaucratic and a delegate from West Africa argued progress in creating the fund was moving too slowly.
This study explores how globalisation is challenging activist groups that use a human rights framework that has traditionally been used to hold national governments accountable for human rights violations. In the absence of any positive movement towards unconditional debt cancellation, Africa continues to be burdened with an unmanageable debt overhang, which is hampering the continent's economic growth. Resource outflows, including debt service, are a drain on financial resources for development. With no convincing solutions offered by international creditors there is clearly a need for a continued focus on the debt problem. Various strategies need to be adopted by civil society organisations in the future, including strengthening the options for establishment of global governance structures such as the international arbitration court, finding channels and institutions to whom such issues as illegitimate debt, the plight of debtor countries in terms of debt repayment against access to health and education as a rights issue.