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  • Regional Integration, Public Health Capabilities, and the Place of the World Health Organization in Africa

    Many countries in Africa have recently embarked on fast- tracking connectivity with other African countries in a bid to, among other things, attract investments and skill power. The main front of these initiatives has been the move towards the elimination of visa requirements among African states. This move has been further justified by arguments that have been made on the global scene by development economists and by the vision of Pan-Africanism. Rapid globalization and increased border openness, however, pose several health hazards and increase the spread of infectious diseases. The recent wake of the Ebola virus, and the weak responses by the African countries that were the most affected by it, is illustrative of this. The spread of diseases across borders has a concomitant effect of increasing disease burdens in countries which are then forced to spend more money to combat these diseases. This resultantly increases health disparities in these countries, further entrenching inequity when it comes to access to healthcare. This is notwithstanding the fact that most African countries have strained public health systems that are already struggling to cope with local demands and mostly rely on charities to deal with emergencies. Therefore, globalization increases the call for the intensification of international cooperation among states to protect the health of their populations. This paper argues for increased cooperation, both regionally, among African states, and globally, to strengthen national detection systems, and to facilitate fast responses in lieu of the increased movements of people and goods, which is likely to result from a visa-free Africa. The paper further calls on African states to be attentive to public health concerns that may arise from increased cross-border movements and take appropriate measures to improve detection and responses to any concerns that may arise.

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