In finance, there’s quite a bit of hysteria surrounding Africa at the moment. GDP is predicted to have risen by 2.4% in 2017. Foreign direct investment is booming, particularly from China, and a new middle class is expected to emerge, with more spending power and increasingly expensive tastes within a relatively young demographic.
However, the findings from a study released on Wednesday serve as a sober reminder that the members of that young workforce are more than just dazzling numbers on a chart.
The report, conducted over 25 countries, included 11,422 adult patients at 247 hospitals spread over 25 countries – including the relatively prosperous Egypt. Even Zambia found that 18% of in-patients developed post-surgery complications: 2.1% who underwent any kind of surgery and 1% of patients who had elective surgery died 30 days afterwards, twice the global average. This is despite those in-patients being younger and healthier than those who underwent surgery elsewhere in the world.
Bruce Biccard, Professor at the University of Cape Town and co-author of the study, ascribed the problem to manpower:
“[The reason] that people do so terribly in Africa from a surgical point of view is that there are just no human resources,” he said.
The authors of the report identified several practical causes that have led to this predicament, including a workforce that is thin on the ground, a lack of hospital beds, and a poor patient aftercare system. The most harrowing element of the report is that these individuals are so young and yet dying entirely preventable deaths.
Indeed, we can identify these problems in manifest form through what recently occurred in Uganda. The country’s doctors went on strike, protesting poor pay and a lack of resources. One can only imagine the desperation that must be felt by qualified professionals who have dedicated themselves to public service to take what is quite frankly pernicious industrial action.
African governments, generally speaking, are experiencing the best period economically in post-independence history. This isn’t to say that structural or external challenges still don’t persist. However, this is a matter of prioritisation as much as anything.
Still, African leaders are treating their countries as play things where the cult of personality is the overriding driving force of their policy making, or are simply using the wealth of the nation to enrich themselves.
The fact that Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari flies out to Europe for medical treatment when instead he has the option to invest in his people, hospitals and infrastructure is a sad indictment of how little African leaders think of of their people.
Tragedy and Africa are often mentioned in parallel in Western media. Far from trying to perpetuate the stereotype, this article is more intended as a kick up the backside. Africa clearly possesses the potential.
West Africa handled the Ebola crisis of 2016 much better than many had expected it to, for instance. The continent is capable of so much more and quite honestly it owes so much more to each and every African citizen.