THE CONVENTIONAL PATH FOR IMPROVING HEALTHCARE IS TO BUILD MORE HOSPITALS AND TRAIN MORE DOCTORS. BUT COULD AFRICA SPEED UP PROGRESS BY "HACKING" ITS WAY TO SUCCESS?
Governments, NGOs and businesses spend billions of dollars across Africa building new hospitals and training new doctors. But currently, the doctor-patient ratio in many African countries is one-twentieth or less of what it is in the US and Europe, meaning many patients, particularly in remote areas, never get the specialist care they need.
Even in the best conditions, hospitals take time to build and it can take more than a decade to train a specialist doctor. Is the right approach to improving Africa’s healthcare therefore to build hospitals and train doctors?
The term "hacking” means modifying the features of a system to achieve a new goal. In development, it can describe rapid changes made by a society to advance without going through the intermediate stages. Rather than following developed nations’ roadmap to progress, Africa can leapfrog by experimenting with emerging tools, models and ideas. Foreign investors looking at Africa often say that while the prospects are exciting, the infrastructure is lagging. I believe that existing infrastructure can be hacked – which in itself is a huge opportunity.
Africa’s best-known “development hack” thus far is the mobile phone…