Using consumer technology to meet basic needs

Philips is supporting University of Johannesburg.  Stimulation Laboratory with its lastest innovations to enhance healthcare delivery in Africa

Philips is supporting University of Johannesburg
Stimulation Laboratory with its lastest innovations to enhance healthcare delivery in Africa

Given her under-developed status, Africa is saddled with lack of basic needs such as electricity and healthcare, important for creating a continent flourished with good lifestyle, devoid of constrictions and impediments.

Improving the lives of the African people has become a herculean task for the authorities, and this situation has ruined the continent’s development and progress.

Thus, poverty, poor health and sustained hunger, etc., have deprived the people of the right to healthy lifestyle, facilitating a vicious endless cycle in which there is diminished productivity and retrogression.

Inadequate solution to these needs, blamed largely on limited financial resources, has prompted the development institutions, corporate bodies and other agencies to partner and fund projects to relief the needy on the continent.

In Ghana, for example, one of her paramount constraints to growth is the unreliable and inadequate supply of electric power.

Reforms across the power sector are necessary to scale-up integrated resource and resilient planning among the generation, transmission, and distribution sectors.

Indeed, improving energy efficiency and demand-side management, and expanding renewable energy sources, are key to national growth and prosperity.

At a lighting conference held recently in Johannesburg, Thierry Boulanger, head of Philips Lighting in Africa, said that the appropriate solution to Ghana’s power crisis is educating the people to use the power efficiently and encouraging them to rely more on renewable energy.

While researching more into lighting solutions and systems that are sustainable, Philips has introduced innovations like solar powered home lighting systems and solar powered street lighting device, which goes off automatically when there is no human activity in the night, to enhance lives in the urban and rural communities in Africa.

“For instance, our Ghana office, which is the hub of Philips West Africa, has undertaken many initiatives in the country, including a solar lantern project for rural communities, to make their environment healthier and safer,” said Mr. Boulanger.

Undoubtedly, in our health sector, malaria is the leading cause of illness, because the country is malaria endemic. According to the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) statistics, children under five years and pregnant women are most vulnerable, and accounted for 30 per cent of out-patient department (OPD) cases, 27.9 per cent of admissions and 7.2 per cent of deaths in 2014.

At a crucial meeting with corporate institutions in Accra last week, the NMCP called on them to join the fight against malaria, particularly at the prevention stage to help reduce the high rate of infection, and enhance healthcare delivery, as global funding dwindled.

This reminds me of an impressive spectacle that caught my attention at a recent visit to Diepsloot, a deprived community of about 350,000 residents, in Johannesburg, where a Philips Mobile Clinic, is being run in partnership with Rhiza, a Dutch NGO and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), South Africa’s national development finance institution, to offer free primary healthcare to between 700 and 1000 children/mothers every month.

Philips is also in partnership with the University of Johannesburg, the second biggest university in South Africa with over 50,000 student population, supporting the tertiary institution with up-to-date medical equipment to offer the students the required skills to effectively perform after training.

A laudable initiative, it is about time Ghana government buys into such ideas and partner Philips Ghana to introduce them here to solve some of our basic needs.

Explaining the intention for such initiatives, Jose Fernandes, Managing Director of Philips Healthcare in South Africa, said: “Philips demonstrates the technology in communities and institutions, and expects the authorities and interested institutions to buy into it and come on board to offer solutions to problems.”

It means that companies in Africa, whose top priorities include business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society, are focusing largely on sustainability principles to the ways in which business is conducted, making the institution’s activities a demonstration of the inclusion of social and environmental concerns in business operations.

This buttresses the fact that in business, socially-responsible companies factor stakeholders as key partners in facilitating operational growth and developing a thriving market, to make the win-win agenda relevant.

Good health, for instance, is essential for sustained, creative and productive life. Healthy individuals are resourceful and creative, and have the urge to fulfil their full potential. That is why many governments have a proactive national health plan to ensure that it does not govern a sickly nation.

Equally essential for productive life is power, which President Barack Obama, in June 2013, stated that, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs. And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy. You’ve got to have power.”

Africa has been fortunate to benefit from meaningful innovations, created to provide solutions to her basic needs, to enhance the lives of its people and make the average person feel secured, as it offers an enabling environment to allow the African people utilise their creative energies and national resources.

Verily, unless Africa creates the environment for creative innovations and supports the same, she will remain technologically backward in a world where technology dominates everything, including commerce, politics and even culture.

People of goodwill can help Africa, but African governments must create the enabling environment for her people to benefit from such support.

By Emmanuel Amponsah

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