The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contribute $62.5mn to support health services in Africa
It has recently been announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have contributed €54mn (US$62.5mn) to support and strengthen diagnostic health services in Sub-Saharan Africa under the ‘Breakthrough Energy Europe’ programme.
This cooperation will also help to mobilise private investment in laboratory facilities providing timely, cost-effective and accurate diagnostic services for diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria, as well as support maternal and child healthcare.
Additionally, it will allow doctors to detect diseases earlier, respond faster and provide better targeting treatments. Under this collaboration between the EU and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, poorer people in low-income African countries will have better access to higher quality testing and, therefore, better chances of proper treatment.
The articulation of this programme followed the announcement of President Juncker and Bill Gates earlier in the year on the Gates Foundation's intention to contribute to the EU's External Investment Plan.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: "Together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are showcasing the EU's engagement in Africa.
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“Through the Gates Foundation's contribution of €54mn to our External Investment Plan, we will unlock private investment in a sector where additional investments in state-of-the-art testing facilities are urgently needed in order to meet the health needs of ample sectors of the population. This also shows that our approach under the 'Africa – Europe Alliance' works and is attractive to other stakeholders."
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, added: "Our foundation is delighted to partner with the European Commission to strengthen diagnostic services across Africa for the infectious diseases that still kill and harm the highest numbers of the world's poorest people.
“By having better tools to more accurately identify these diseases, we can provide the right treatments at the right time and, ultimately, ensure more people across sub-Saharan Africa are able to live healthy and productive lives."
The majority of the Gates Foundation's contribution – $50mn (€43.2mn) will support the European Fund for Sustainable Development Guarantee, an important pillar of the EU's External Investment Plan. It will be used to help leverage private investment, which will in turn promote inclusive growth and job creation in Africa and the European Neighbourhood countries.
US$12.5mn (€10.8mn) will be invested in technical assistance under the European Health Guarantee Platform for Africa – one of 12 innovative guarantee programmes under the EU's External Investment Plan. It will incentivise research and innovation in e-health in less developed and fragile environments, leading to cheaper healthcare services for people on low incomes and saving lives.
Advances in health "must ensure self-sovereign identity"
The UK government has announced that from September onwards COVID-19 vaccine passports will be necessary to gain entry into places with large crowds, such as nightclubs.
This has reignited the debate between those who believe having proof of vaccinations will enable people to gather in public places and travel safely, and those who view the digital certificates as an attack on personal freedom.
The arguments have increased in intensity since the recent announcement to drop COVID-19 restrictions in England, in a move to reopen the economy that has attracted fierce criticism both domestically and overseas.
Cross-party ministers are set to defy the government’s latest plans to introduce vaccine passports over civil liberties concerns. A number of MPs have already signed the Big Brother Watch declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs” in recent months.
However Mark Shaw, CEO of Tento Applied Sciences, says the Big Brother Watch campaign is based on false assumptions. “Big Brother Watch puts forward a compelling argument based around civil liberties, but some of the assumptions they make are simply incorrect” he says.
“For example, the BBW campaign claims that all Covid passes are discriminatory, counterproductive and would lead to British citizens having to share personal health information with anyone in authority, from bouncers to bosses. However, there are already privacy-first digital wallets that give individuals the freedom to store and share anonymised medical documents, work credentials and other types of documentation quickly, simply, and securely.
“I wholeheartedly agree that individuals should not be required to share their own personal health information with unknown third parties or with anyone in authority who demands it" Shaw adds. "But I strongly disagree with the suggestion that ‘events and businesses are either safe to open for everyone, or no one’. It creates a false dichotomy that either everyone is safe, or nobody is safe. If employers or event organisers don’t take action to properly manage workplace or venue safety, then they risk curtailing the safety and freedom of movement for the majority."
The subject of personal health data is under scrutiny in the UK at the moment, following controversial plans for the NHS to share patient data with third parties. These have been put on hold following public criticism.
Meanwhile a new report has found that the majority of the British public is willing to embrace digital healthcare tools such as apps and digital therapies prescribed by a trusted healthcare professional.
Shaw adds: “The vital point to make is this: innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity. This means the data held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device. And, in the case of medical data, that data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format, and the user chooses how they share their information."