Governance and Health in Africa: Voices from the Opening Plenary

Sarah Lindsay

Senior Technical Officer

The Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research is being held this week in Cape Town, South Africa with the theme "Science and Practice of People-Centered Health Centers." The conference is holding over 100 plenary sessions, film conversations, posters, book launches, and interactive panels. It kicked off this evening with the opening plenary, Governance and Health in Africa: Pan-African perspectives on state stewardship for people’s health. Below is commentary from the opening panelists on how governance impacts health systems and the ability of people to claim their right to health. 

Lucy Gilson, Co-chair, South Africa Local Organizing Consortium:

"Health systems are part of the fabric of the society of which we live. And health systems are always political. The reflection and debate of this symposium must be the basis for taking action on health decisions and social justice for all."

Sisonke Msimang: South African Writer and Activist

"What does power, democracy, and rights have to do with the mundane bureaucratic business of delivering health?A state saying that it’s people has a right to health has great implications for how that state plans and budgets."

Thandika Mkandawire, Professor of African Development, London School of Economics

"Health is an important social policy. People think of the protective role social policy plays. But we need to take into account the productive and informative role of social policy, especially  when it comes to health."

Mahaman Tidjani Alou: Dean, Faculty of Economics and Law, Universite Abdou Moumoini, Niger

"Economic growth doesn’t necessarily bring access to medicines and health care to people equally. Inclusion is not guaranteed. There is a paradigm of unequal growt, but democracy can trigger inclusiveness in decision making which makes decisions more representative."

Belgacem Sabri, Chair, Association for Defending the Right to Health, Tunisa

"Many can pay for private sector health care, but the vulnerable are left to a failing public system. There is an erosion of the right to health, which contributed to the uprisings that have happened in Tunisa. We hope to move towards better participation and people-centered decisions."