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Exclusive: Africa CDC offers first healthtech informatics fellowship

By , Freelance Investigative Journalist
Africa , 01 Sep 2023
Jean Philbert Nsengimana, chief digital advisor of Africa CDC said the fellowship will help build expertise in Africa's healthtech sector.
Jean Philbert Nsengimana, chief digital advisor of Africa CDC said the fellowship will help build expertise in Africa's healthtech sector.

In a first for Africa's healthtech sector, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to offer a public health informatics fellowship.

Speaking exclusively to ITWeb Africa, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, chief digital advisor of Africa CDC, said the fellowship will help build expertise in Africa's healthtech sector.

Africa CDC's move is part of its digital transformation strategy.

The aim is to transform the organisation into an informatics-savvy institution to assist African Union member states in enhancing their public health systems.

The strategy includes integrating all of Africa's health facilities, encouraging home-grown healthtech innovation, and involving more women in the rapidly evolving digital health sector.

Nsengimana said the Africa CDC advocates for home-grown healthtech solutions and remains aware of hurdles the continent confronts in embracing technologies to deliver health care.

Nsengimana, who formerly served as Rwanda's minister of youth and information and communication technology, noted that advancing healthtech in Africa faces four hurdles.

He mentioned four of them: digital infrastructure, human capability, innovation, and regulatory framework.

To this end, he stated that the Africa CDC is pushing a number of initiatives that would facilitate the adoption of healthtech throughout the continent, including the development of human capacity.

“Africa CDC is about to launch the public health informatics fellowship which will solve the human capacity challenge," Nsengimana said.

The Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program provides on-the-job training for professionals to apply expertise in information science, computer science, and information technology to address current and future informatics needs.

“African Union and Africa CDC are championing harmonised legal and regulatory frameworks so that as a continent we are able to converge a single digital health market," said Nsengimana.

"That goes in the spirit of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” he added.

Turning to digital infrastructure, Nsengimana said: “Today, we are talking about more than 50% of Africa's health facilities not yet connected to the internet.

"Those facilities are completely left out. So, you can imagine that the power of technology that others are able to enjoy is not yet available to the majority of our people and our healthcare providers.”

He said to tackle the problem Africa CDC is contributing to bridging the connectivity gaps.

"We have the flagship initiative called HealthConnekt Africa to tackle the connective challenge, leverage our combined market power – not do things in a fragmented approach," said Nsengimana.

“We want to leverage the combined procurement capacity of our continent to gain access to economies of scale as we confront infrastructure challenges.”

In terms of the continent's healthcare regulatory environment, Nsengimana stated that there is a gap, and the rate at which technology evolves worsens this gap, stifling healthtech innovation.

“I think we need to be a lot more open in the way we approach regulation of technology, we understand the risks, but also we understand the opportunities," explained Nsengimana.

"So, we can we can be agile in the way we regulate technology and allow innovation to flourish.

"This can happen while preventing threats like data exploitation, data colonisation, breaches to data, sovereignty, and so on, that can be done without hampering the ability for us to innovate.”

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