Invest in the people who keep businesses running

2013-03-24 10:00

I should be tired, but I’m energised.

Over the past six years, I’ve travelled across four continents sharing not only my music, but my vision for a world where everyone has access to healthcare.

Now I am back in the nation and continent of my family, my heart and my soul.

I know my vision of health for all is one I share with many of my fellow South Africans and now I want our leaders to take this vision to the world stage.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, South Africa will host leaders from the world’s emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – in Durban for the fifth Brics Summit.

This is our opportunity to highlightthe progress we’ve made and to take the lead among growing economies in putting health at the forefront of their agenda.

In New Delhi, India, in January, Brics health ministers called for strengthened cooperation in addressing common health challenges such as HIV and TB.

This was a great start and I saw the hand of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi paving the way for the fight against these diseases.

Our politicians should be congratulated for this leadership and for recent strides to increase the number of South Africans who can access treatment for HIV/Aids, TB and malaria.

The successes of our investments – as well as those of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – demonstrate how targeted investments in our nations and institutions can save lives and improve economic development.

There is much work to be done, but from our experience we know what we need to do.

We need to invest right now, both at home and across Africa.

We need more effective vaccines and drugs.

We need to invest in healthcare workers, facilities and systems.

It’s not declarations that save lives; it’s the resources that come afterwards.

At this week’s summit, I urge the Brics nations to back their January declaration by investing resources in Africa’s health.

Brics nations create 20% of the world’s wealth and this share is expected to rise. It is also well known that growing trade with Africa is a priority.

Our message to Brazil, Russia, India and China, as we welcome them to discuss a largely economic-focused agenda, should be clear: invest in Africa, not just in our businesses, but in the people and communities that run those businesses.

Some may argue we can’t afford it, but if we don’t invest now, it will cost us more in the long run.

The scourge of TB stalks the Brics populations and if we don’t spend money to control it now, TB’s drug-resistant forms, which can cost up to 103 times more to treat than drug-sensitive TB, will continue their spread, potentially bankrupting our health budgets.

To our leaders I say: go beyond discussing economics one-dimensionally and urge the world’s rising economic powers to invest in Africans’ health.

» Chaka Chaka is a celebrated South African musician, president of the Princess of Africa Foundation and a Unicef and Roll Back Malaria ambassador

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