The Coronavirus has been referred to as the invisible enemy and countries all over the world are implementing aggressive measures to attack the spread of the disease. In the spirit of dialogue and inspiring solution-driven conversations, Africa’s foremost governance and political consulting firm, StateCraft Inc., held another in its series of round-tables dubbed ‘Behind the State’.

This virtual edition explored the War on Pandemics, highlighting the role of policy, governance and the economy in tackling health crises. The lineup of speakers at the event included Mrs. Alero Ayida-Otobo, Founder Incubator Africa; Dr. Ola Orekunrin-Brown, Founder, Flying Doctors Nigeria; Hon. Seyi Adisa representing Afijio constituency in the Oyo State House of Assembly; Feyi Fawehinmi, an astute Accountant and Economic Analyst; Dr. Chinonso Egemba, an ardent Health Advocate; Dr. Chioma Nwakanma, Founder SMILE With Me Foundation; and Mr. Olaolu Osanyin, CEO Center for Medical Law Research and Development (CMLRD).

Here are some policy recommendations from the discussion:
  • Proactive healthcare  

Having access to quality and affordable health care is necessary for the preservation of lives. With proper investment in the health sector, African states will be better prepared to combat pandemics of this kind. For this to be a reality, there needs to be new health policies across African states that are private sector-inclusive and fanatically funded to achieve self-reliance in this sector.

  • A national epidemic fund

A glaring loophole which has become evident with the outbreak is the funding gap in our health sector. Beyond making changes to our budgeting allocations, we recommend establishing a contingency fund for epidemic outbreaks. This will reduce the need to divert mass resources towards future incidents if preparations have been made beforehand. This will be funded from a percentage of the Federal health budget, as well as those of the various states. This reduces our dependency on foreign aid during such crises and eases access to funding for the various states.

  • Urgent revision of medical laws to accommodate health digitisation

The lockdowns and movement restrictions in most parts of the world has seen a corresponding increase in digital health solutions to bridge the doctor-patient divide. Nigeria is not left out of this wave, as telemedicine drives conversations in the country, such as the recently launched Eko Telemed initiative of the Lagos State Government. Issues arising from these technological advancements include:

• Data Privacy: One pertinent consequence of health digitization is the possible breach of patient confidentiality and user data. Stringent measures must be put in place to regulate the use of patient data and compel service providers to implement the highest levels of cybersecurity to protect such data. Punishments must also be stipulated for persons found guilty of such breaches.

• Practice Licensing: Practicing medicine through digital platforms requires the expertise of consultants who may be outside Nigerian jurisdiction. In the event of malpractice or negligence, the question of liability and capacity to practice in Nigeria arises. We recommend that State Governments put in place a means of vetting qualified personnel to practice telemedicine in Nigeria –such as an online exam-, whether physically based in the country, or offering expertise via telementoring.

  • Incentivise infrastructure solutions

To remove barriers of cost, access and user behaviour, the Federal Government must partner with the private sector in actualizing the National Broadband Plan. We recommend providing incentives to private investors similar to the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme in order to improve the quality and affordability of data for all Nigerians, because like roads, broadband is a critical component of any country’s infrastructure.

  • Fully open up health institutions

There is a tendency for people to overlook other ailments, thereby avoiding or delaying seeking treatment from healthcare facilities amidst the lockdown. It is important to get health facilities up and running as normal to prevent a large scale rise in other diseases. State-wide sanitations must commence immediately and routinely to disinfect hospitals and medical facilities within each state in order to allay fears of patients who require physically supervised medical care.

The full video from the round-table discussions is available on the StateCraft Inc. YouTube channel.