GE Healthcare to focus on Africa, charitable arm funds training of med device technicians

Business and policy leaders turned their attention to Africa this week as leaders from nearly 50 African nations descended on the nation's capital for the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. General Electric's ($GE) recent promise to "invest $2 billion in facility development, skills training, and sustainability initiatives across Africa by 2018" is mostly focused on energy infrastructure, but includes healthcare initiatives in partnership with governments and a $20 million commitment from the GE Foundation to improve the continent's healthcare.

Most notably, the GE Foundation is funding a $1.5 million biomedical training program in Nigeria to ensure that the country has technicians who can fix devices ranging from blood pressure cuffs to X-rays. About three-fourths of medical equipment in sub-Saharan Africa is currently broken and unusable, says the nongovernmental organization Engineering World Health, which will run the initiative. It builds off of successful efforts by Engineering World Health in Honduras and Rwanda, where studies found that the program reduced the amount of out-of-service medical equipment by 30% to 40%. 

In addition, the foundation is aiming to train nurses in Africa to deliver anesthesia safely, establish a safe oxygen supply system in rural Kenya and Rwanda, and improve girls' education, according to the release.

Meanwhile, GE Healthcare will spend $20 million over 5 years to reduce child-maternal deaths in Nigeria and is investing in Algeria to improve emergency care, modernize hospitals and assist the government in building 10 additional teaching hospitals. 

GE Healthcare CEO John Dineen

Africa has only one doctor per 120,000, according to GE Healthcare CEO John Dineen, who said the continent is a promising growth opportunity for the division. Company-wide, GE said it has won more than $8.3 billion in orders in Africa over the last 12 months.

On Aug. 5 Dineen wrote an essay on healthcare in Africa that says, "Addressing Africa's healthcare needs requires a holistic, system-wide approach that includes skills development and education for healthcare workers, as well as solutions for hospital administrators and governments who are planning the next generation of healthcare for their countries.

"Achieving long-term, sustainable success in bringing more care to more people is about developing smart, solid public-private partnerships in each country. Governments and businesses must work together toward shared outcomes, and it is crucial for partners to work in alignment with each other and with other parties who are in country--clinicians, NGOs and hospital leaders."

- read the release from the GE Foundation
- get the release from Engineering World Health
- here's the release from GE about the commitment to investing $2 billion in Africa

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