By Devika Jyothi
With the fast growing demand for accessible and quality healthcare as well as higher education in East Africa, Healthcare and Higher Education have been identified as emerging sectors with significant potential for internationalisation. India, with its rich diversity of talent and capacity, is an emerging leader in both sectors. India has an edge over many other countries and can significantly impact sector development in Africa through knowledge, technology and skills transfer enabling human development and growth.
SITA, Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for East Africa, is exploring possibilities in the healthcare and higher education sectors for enhanced cooperation between India and East Africa enabling symbiotic growth.
As a first step towards this, SITA representatives led by Mr. Govind Venuprasad, Coordinator, met with members of the Healthcare and Higher Education panels of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) – Coimbatore on July 22, to explore the avenues for possible collaboration between Indian and East African institutions towards developing the Healthcare and Higher Education sectors in East Africa.
Mr. Venuprasad presented an overview of SITA for participants to understand and explore the potential areas of collaboration. ‘In charting out the way forward for promoting healthcare cooperation between India and East Africa, measures beyond patient recruitment will have to be looked at,’ Mr. Venuprasad said, setting the tone for the conference.
Discussions on the Healthcare sector were led by Dr. Raja Sabapathy, Convenor (Healthcare Panel), CII Coimbatore and Director, Ganga Hospital and Dr. R. Veluswamy, CEO, G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital.
‘Health problems in India and Africa are similar, so India’s knowledge base can be effective in providing appropriate solutions for African countries, said Dr. Sabapathy. ‘While Coimbatore has its distinctive expertise in several specialisations and super-specialisations like cardiology, oncology, microsurgery and such, the capabilities are not promoted well. This is an area to focus on,’ he observed.
‘While we may work on long term plans like mutual recognition of university degrees, promoting partnerships between organisations, and investment possibilities, in the short term we could focus on talent exchange programmes for trained doctors where they can be further trained in specific skills enabling capability building,’ remarked Dr. R. Veluswamy. ‘This will create the necessary awareness and trust. We presently have doctors coming in from Japan and China for short term training programmes – provided free of charge. We could replicate that with East Africa.’
‘And, to recognize the comparative capabilities of hospitals in India, an outcome-based database needs to be created which will bring to the fore the expertise of hospitals in globally lesser-known cities like Coimbatore, Dr. Veluswamy stated.
Discussions on the Higher Education sector were led by K. Senthil Ganesh, Chairman, CII Higher Education Panel and Managing Trustee, RVS Educational Trust; Dr. Vijila Kennedy, Director, KCT Group and Dr. N.R. Alamelu, Principal, Sri Ramakrishna Engineering College.
Commenting on the possibilities in Higher Education, Mr. Ganesh said, ‘Facilitating collaboration between educational institutions in East Africa and Coimbatore for improved student recruitment remains the primary interest. However, the scope can extend to setting up institutions in East Africa, facilitating research collaborations and offering management development programmes, among other things.’
‘Opportunities for public-private partnerships as industry education service providers as well as in skills development for the realization of the potential of Africa’s workforce will have to be explored, added Dr. Kennedy.
‘Towards de-risking the investment proposition, it is important that we approach the opportunity in a phased manner,’ Mr. Ganesh commented. The immediate focus areas would be looking for partnership opportunities, with India transferring knowledge and East Africa providing infrastructure; research contributions and collaborations as well as capability building in engineering, particularly in specialisations such as data analytics and artificial intelligence.
Once we have a success story established through a partnership, other Indian institutions will be willing to invest in East Africa, Mr. Ganesh stated.
Going forward, SITA will work out a plan of action, in consultation with the respective stakeholders in the two sectors, to develop greater exchange and partnership opportunities between India and East Africa, Mr. Venuprasad said. SITA can help prioritise the activities, facilitate the discussions between governments, institutions and other stakeholders, enable due diligence as well as provide necessary aftercare for the successful operation of partnerships, he added.