With many health professionals leaving Africa to find better opportunities abroad, there is a severe shortage of medical workers across the continent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the continent still has overstretched ratio for every doctor, nurses and midwives.
The poor suffer the biggest given their inability to access quality healthcare. The major diseases affecting the African population are water borne diseases, sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS among others, hundreds of thousands each year die from malaria (WHO estimates that malaria kills 1 child every 30 seconds), Tuberculosis, cancer among many others. This has left millions of children without one or both parents. With high unemployment rate in most parts of the continent, the number of Africans living in poverty is rising in both rural and urban households, most of these people rely on food aid and can barely afford the colossal costs of health care.
Hygiene standards in Africa differs widely, and the most affected areas are among the urban poor, mostly in slums as well as those in low income rural households. Many communities lack clean water and proper sanitation facilities; this means that illnesses caused by poor hygiene, such as cholera and diarrhoea, therefore remain rampant.
On government spending on health care, most states are lagging behind with some spending less than 6% of their budget on health care. Few countries including Botswana, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda and Zambia are spending at least 15% of their budget on health care.
Sub-Saharan Africa averages 1.2 health workers (other than doctors) for every 1,000 of its citizens; this severe shortage of nurses and midwives means that over two-thirds of women in Africa have no contact
with health personnel following childbirth. Africa accounts for more than half of the world's maternal and child deaths. Hospitals and clinics in Africa often find it difficult to employ enough trained medical staff to cope with the number of people needing care given than they, in most cases, do not have sufficient budget to cover such staffing expenses or even purchase specialised medical equipment or medicines. The irony in this case is that some countries like Mozambique, Liberia, Angola among others have more doctors in foreign countries than at home. As at 2017 more than half of Africans do not have access to essential drugs. With the provision of the right drugs to treat respiratory infections, diarrhea diseases and malaria, around 10 million lives could be saved annually.
Given the conflicts in some parts of Africa, disruption to daily life and damage to facilities caused by conflict, means health clinics have an even greater struggle to offer services to local populations; diseases then take an even greater toll on the poor. The civil unrests, over the last few years, in such countries as Ivory Coast, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, Liberia, DRC, Burundi among others makes access to basic health care a pipe dream.
Health is becoming a booming business in Africa. As countries urbanise, disease patterns change and more people become able to pay for healthcare or buy health insurance. Private companies sense opportunities. International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector arm of the World Bank, estimates that the market for healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa would reach about 40 billon US dollars by
2018. Over the next few years, the private sector is expected to pump in additional investments to the tune of billions of dollars to address the increasing opportunity the health care presents in Africa. Both communicable and incommunicable diseases require heavy investment, with such diseases as cancer eating up Africans at an alarming rate. General Electric (GE) notes that just five PET canners, used to produce detailed images of the body, are installed in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa; this leaves most people to travel to India for treatment especially cancer related and even those which could be treated locally.
Opportunities in health care are immense are entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in them.