Engaging the Private Sector to Improve Local Health Service Delivery in a Pandemic

UNGA 2021 Special Sessions: Engaging the Private Sector to Improve Local Health Service Delivery in a Pandemic

Monday, September 27, 2021 from 10:00 am -11:15 am EST



Temitope Iluyemi, Senior Director, Global Government Relations, Africa, P&G


Azuka Okeke, CEO, Africa Resource Centre for Excellence in Supply Chain Management

Julia Spencer, Associate Vice President, Global Vaccine Policy, Merck & Co.

Patricia Obozuwa, Vice President, Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola

Dr. Muyiwa Atebe, Director Primary Health Care, PATH


As African governments seek to advance their healthcare systems, particularly the public health supply chain, meeting patient needs and improving the availability of medicines to those who need them can be significantly impacted and accelerated through strategic, effective private sector engagement.

The challenge increases as countries face larger investments needed for health programs, expanding portfolios and volumes of medical products, and more service coverage to underserved populations, especially in the current global COVID-19 pandemic. All players, including the private sector, must work together optimally to ensure effective, reliable, and agile supply chains that provide equitable access to health services and medications for all people.  

The private sector plays a critical role in Africa in advancing healthcare needs, particularly on how to improve supply chain management (SCM). The panelist in this session, using a mix of case studies and lessons learned, highlighted the role of partnerships and collaborations in advancing SCM through capacity-building opportunities and innovations in regulatory mechanisms in health. Capabilities and regulatory advancements to support SCM require educating the policymakers on the importance of health to the economies.  It also recognizes the importance of addressing upstream and downstream SCM issues and applying multiple pronged approaches in addressing the human capital and infrastructure needed to support robust SCM for resilient health systems in Africa.


Human Capacity for Supply Chain Management:
Africa Resources  Center for Excellence in Supply Chain Management (ARC) has optimized private sector assets by expanding SCM training. A strengthened SCM human capacity in the health sector will have a multiplier effect across sectors. To achieve this multiplier effect, it is important to motivate the public sector to see health's revenue potential, including tapping the private sector's corporate social responsibility (CSR) opportunities. It is also essential to assist the government in creating an enabling environment for Private-Public Partnerships (PPS). Similarly, it is vital to prepare the private sector to engage with the government for win-win outcomes.

ARC has facilitated opportunities to draw expertise from the private sector and facilitate knowledge transfer to expand supply chain training. ARC established a partnership with MIT skills training in Spain to ensure Africa has a center for excellence for  SCM training.


Case study: MIT Global SCALE Network Centre - ARC Nigeria has completed a feasibility study for establishing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence (SCALE) Centre in Nigeria (the first in Africa) to build long-term supply chain talent for the continent. ARC engaged stakeholders across sectors, including health, transport/logistics, oil, gas, and manufacturing, to achieve a critical mass of committed stakeholders. Stakeholders from the private sector include Dangote, Access Bank, Bolloré, Zenith Bank, B Medical Systems, Red Star Express PLC/FedEx, Jumia, CMA CGM, Africa Capital Alliance, Mobil Oil, American Business Council (comprising more than 42 leading US companies in Nigeria), General Electric and logistics company UPS.


Capabilities and Regulatory Collaborations in Supply Chain Management:
Merck &Co. /MSD has found private sector led SCM capabilities and regulatory collaborations vital in strengthening resilient health systems in the African continent. As experienced during COVID-19, a weak SCM results in wasted dosses, stock out, inequitable access, inability to distribute or deliver due to inadequate cold chain capacity, among other challenges. In a recent GAVI study, out of 57 GAVI countries, only 2% had optimal equipment well before the need for Ultracold chain to enable efficient COVID-19 vaccines delivery. 

Private sector technical cooperation is essential and illustrative of the contribution of their expertise ( vaccine manufacturers) in strengthening health systems. Regulatory processes influence supply chains ( market access at the country level and physical access at the community level). These need to encourage incremental vaccine innovations that promote simpler and efficient supply chains. Similarly, the SCM needs to expand to accommodate future innovative vaccines as they come to market and reach new cohorts of people and places with minimal wastage. 


Case Study: Merck &Co. /MSD is in Partnership with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers’ charitable arm, IFPW Foundation, to support Gavi’s supply chain initiatives. The Partnership is building capabilities through an executive training program called STEP. It also focuses on SCM network – research & testing to optimize SCM networks for Vaccines ( supply technical assistance and catalytic funding to test new models). The Partnership innovates within the SCM by supporting the intro of new cutting-edge technologies and support through the development and scale-up of solutions by providing technical assistance, training including business modeling, and understanding market demands.


Key lessons from Merck &Co. /MSD:
Investing in regulatory cooperation – Ebola experience 

  • ( WHO/ Merck and other strategic partners) streamlined and simplified processes and requirements working in parallel instead of working in sequence. Enablers included electronic submissions, interoperable data systems, and digitization; 
  • Worked together on an aligned regulatory strategy focused on obtaining approval in the African countries with the highest risk of Ebola outbreak as the essential area of focus; 
  • Enabled the WHO to work with the European Medicines Agency(EMA), Africa Vaccines Regulatory Forum, and Merck to develop a collaborative review procedure for licensing and introduction in African countries. This collaboration resulted in WHO prequalification 36 hours after EMA approval and within African countries 90 days after EMA approval ( usually takes years).


Regulation Innovation: Developed a single product label ( English and French) to support the global stockpiling and would mean more rapid distribution in the future. Regulatory streamlining and harmonization enable labeling and packaging innovations, enabling manufacturers to ship vaccines from one country to another or repackage easily and the associated cold chain footprint.


Multisectoral Partnership to enable the  world’s first global Ebola Vaccine stockpile with ERVEBO® 

(Licensed Ebola vaccine ). There is a window to use examples from Ebola to call for greater investment in supply chain strengthening and regulatory strengthening to support optimization of vaccines access.


Resilient systems and the role of the Private sector:
The private sector could share the best practices more in ensuring improved and resilient health systems. These would include tapping the private sector supply chain and distribution systems, among other capabilities. Private sector strategic marketing could also provide success models on translating awareness of health solutions in improving health outcomes. Investment in technology is also an excellent opportunity to ensure real-time data for decision-making. Most recently, Coca-Cola was able to expedite the collation of data useful for sourcing dry ice needed to strengthen the cold chain in delivering COVID-19 vaccines.


Case study: Partnership approach & Leveraging Coca-Cola’s network -Project Last Mile is The Coca-Cola Company’s pioneering partnership to strengthen health systems across Africa by leveraging their distribution and system network. This is achieved by working with global donors and African governments. Without life-saving medicines, people in Africa experience avoidable loss of life from treatable diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, or diseases that could be prevented by vaccines or by proactively accessing essential health services.


Use of evidence in strengthening Supply Chains:
The use of evidence is vital in driving transformation in health systems, including supply chain management. Investments in digital health are essential in streamlining and creating efficiencies in health system improvement, including supply chain management. There is a need to review and improve regulatory environments to enable more private sector engagement and innovation in supply chain management. With this rethink, health system design ensures coverage and access to the most remote places. PATH works on

Primary Health Care -Operating at the nexus of product development and system innovation, work with countries and partners to reimagine primary health care through a people-centered, data-driven approach that gives everyone a fair chance at health and well-being.

Case Study: 4 Principles for scaling health products - Health products save lives - but only if they make it to the market and meet the needs of care providers. To achieve this, PATH has ensured product introduction includes:

  • Making options affordable.
  • Building evidence of impact.
  • Designing for the user.
  • Collaborating across sectors.