Can the for-profit private sector solve Africa’s health care problems?

There seems to be growing interest amongst international agencies and donors in the for-profit private sector as a mechanism for improving African health systems, including for poor communities.  Already some donors, and even some governments, are subsidising some health care enterprises.

I feel concerned about this trend, given my experience of the South African for-profit private health sector which primarily targets high-income earners, provides expensive services and attracts skilled human resources away from the public sector.  Government finds it difficult to regulate the for-profit private sector, especially private providers.

I’d like to start a discussion about the role of the for-profit private sector in African health systems and whether it is appropriate for donors and governments to subsidise such enterprises.

As I’m a researcher, I think the most appropriate point to start would be to examine the evidence from real-life cases where for-profit enterprises have attempted to improve access to health care for disadvantaged communities.  Does anyone have some examples to contribute to this conversation?  Remember, we’re talking about FOR-PROFIT cases studies (so, for the moment, we’re not looking at services provided by non-profit organisations ).

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