By signing up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, all African states took accountability for the third goal, which is to reach universal health coverage by 2030.
The political ramifications of this commitment are gradually being felt as consumers and patients are beginning to expect and demand more in terms of healthcare service from their governments.
The promise of better healthcare was also an important reason for President Kenyatta being reelected in Kenya’s 2017 general election. Universal health coverage was one of the big four focus areas of his new administration.
2016 witnessed South Africa’s biggest student protest since apartheid. Although these protests were largely centred on opposition to tuition fees, rallying around the mantra “”Fees Must Fall,”” there were also significant implications for healthcare provision.
In 2017, the government published a white paper which promised free healthcare for all, but has since been accused of backpedaling by powerful civil society campaign groups like Treatment Action Campaign, which was integral in pressurizing the government to offer access to AIDS treatment in the 1990s.
Although just 33% of African constitutions include a comprehensive exposition to the right to healthcare and measures to ensure enforceability, there is a clear trend to enshrine universal health coverage in more constitutions.
In 2017, Kenya’s Health Act builds on the country’s 2010 constitution to operationalize the commitment to the highest attainable standards of health. Egypt and Zimbabwe’s constitutions were also updated in 2013 to ensure judicial enforceability of the right to health.
With a large gap between public commitment and reality, pressure for better healthcare is likely to grow much more intense across the continent.