Digitalization: A Backbone for Regulatory Harmonization and Health Systems Strengthening in Africa
On Tuesday November 15, Corporate Council on Africa’s US-Africa Health Security and Resilience Initiative held a virtual session titled “Digitalization: A Backbone for Regulatory Harmonization and Health Systems Strengthening in Africa.” The session was moderated by Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Chairman of Corporate Council on Africa and featured a high-level panel including Mrs. Sybil Nana Ama Ossei-Agyeman-Yeboah, Acting Principle Professional Officer Public Health West African Health Organization, Dr. David Mukanga, Deputy Director, Africa Regulatory Systems, Integrated Development, Global Health Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ms. Nevena Miletic, Co-Chair African Regulatory Network, IFPMA and Mr. Emanuel Owusu Adasi, ICT Officer, Ghana Food and Drugs Authority.
The panel discussion focused on strategies that leverage digital innovations to improve regulatory systems and strengthen health security in Africa. Dr. David Mukanga from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation kicked off the discussion by providing an overview of the regulatory environment on the continent and key trends and challenges. He noted that digitalization is key to harmonizing regulatory systems and streamlining processes within regulatory agencies. Dr. Mukanga also emphasized the importance of open communication and information sharing among partners to support business operations.
Mr. Emanuel Owusu Adasi, ICT Officer, Ghana Food and Drugs Authority highlighted how Ghana FDA is leveraging digital solutions to improve operations. An example of this is the launch of Ghana FDA’s Safety Watch System, which enables the agency to collect key information on adverse reactions to medicines from patients and community health workers through an online portal. Since launching this digital platform, Ghana FDA has improved reporting timelines and increased the amount of data collected.
Mrs. Sybil Nana Ama Ossei-Agyeman-Yeboah, Acting Principle Professional Officer Public Health West African Health Organization (WAHO) highlighted WAHO’s work in support of regulatory harmonization among ECOWAS member states. Mrs. Agyeman-Yeboah echoed Dr. Mukanga’s remarks regarding the importance of open communication and collaboration between partners. She noted that in response to COVID-19, WAHO and country regulators quickly transitioned processes and operations from manual and in-person to virtual through the use of digital platforms such as the Med Safety App. Similar to Ghana FDA’s Safety Watch System, The Med Safety App enables patients to report reactions to medicines online.
Ms. Nevena Miletic, Co-Chair African Regulatory Network, IFPMA said that modernization of regulatory frameworks is the prerequisite to enable innovative approaches in pharmaceutical developments. She outlined two key elements to enabling modernization including adopting and harmonizing regulatory and legal provisions to allow the use of digital innovations such as the implementation of electronic submission systems. The second element is ensuring good data practices including data standards, data sharing and IP and data privacy protection.
The panelists agreed that digitization is essential to optimizing regulatory systems on the continent. Speakers also discussed the importance of collaboration between the public and private sector as regulatory agencies continue to work towards modernizing systems and processes through digital technologies.
This webinar is presented by CCA’s U.S.-Africa Health Security and Resilience Initiative (HSRI). HSRI brings together major U.S. and African leaders, corporations, multilateral organizations, foundations, and other health sector stakeholders to collaborate on developing policies, promoting strategic partnerships, providing critical Africa health-related information, and facilitating investment to strengthen Africa’s health systems security and resilience