President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Abuja said stronger partnership with the private sector will help in improving health facilities and access in the country, adding that a nation needs a healthy population to prosper. Speaking at the virtual groundbreaking ceremony of African Medical Centre of Excellence, a landmark hospital project that will significantly transform the healthcare sector in West African sub-region, the President said the challenges faced in the health sector require collective will, partnership and more resources, especially in tackling brain drain. The health project is being implemented by African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) in partnership with the Federal Government, Kings College Hospital, London, University of Winsconsin Teaching Hospital, USA and Christies Hospital, Manchester. “It is my pleasure to preside over the groundbreaking ceremony of the Africa Medical Center of Excellence, Abuja, Nigeria. Today represents more than just the groundbreaking ceremony for a landmark hospital project that will significantly transform the healthcare sector in West Africa. “Today also demonstrates the commitment of the Nigerian Government and Afreximbank to the wellbeing of the African people, and the recognition that the wealth of a Nation rests squarely on the health of its population,” he said. According to the President, in addition to providing comprehensive care across the three critical care areas, the AMCE will offer educational services to develop talent and establish itself as a world-class research centre, in partnership with global institutions such as Kings College Hospital and Christies Hospital in the United Kingdom. “The success of the AMCE will pave the way for future investments and partnerships in the sector while raising the local standard of healthcare and providing a blueprint for quality of services required to address Nigeria’s and Africa’s healthcare and economic challenges. “The AMCE represents a return to fundamentals, and the understanding that there is no African development agenda without able-bodied Africans to execute our vision of transformation,” he said. President Buhari thanked the management of Afreximbank, a Pan-African multilateral trade finance institution created in 1993 under the auspices of the African Development Bank, and all the partners for their commitment to Africa, and for the action-oriented approach to resolving the challenges that the continent faces on its path to development. President Buhari said the rising cases of non-communicable diseases in Africa are well established, adding that, “Cardiovascular ailments, cancers and haematological disorders have increasingly become matters of concern to public health cares. These ailments are now the highest contributors to non-communicable disease mortalities, representing more than 81% of all NCD deaths in West Africa.” “The World Health Organization projects that deaths on the African continent attributable to cancer and diabetes are expected to rise over the next 10 years. The rising NCD burden coupled with inadequate medical infrastructure on the continent threatens the future of our people. Right now, many hospitals in the West African region are underfunded, underequipped, understaffed and relatively inaccessible to most patients especially from rural areas. “Inasmuch as this represents an opportunity for investment in African healthcare, it has not necessarily translated into increased investment activity in this most pressing area that requires intervention. This problem is further exacerbated by the significant brain drain experienced by the continent. The flight of doctors and nurses to other continents has resulted in a significant gap between the required treatments for NCDs and the available treatments and care. “The above challenges combine to create a regional health market with poor access to critical services and low perception of quality of care available,’’ the President noted. President Buhari said the AMCE will provide world class medical services at par with the world’s best hospitals. “The AMCE, a 500-bed specialist facility, will provide services in the areas of oncology, cardiology, and haematology and will seek to address the significant shortage of clinical care options in the West African sub-region. “The AMCE demonstrates that Afreximbank is not only Africa’s trade finance partner, but its development partner. “I also would like to commend the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Foreign Affairs, Federal Capital Territory and Health for their tireless support to ensuring this project comes to life. This was truly a team effort,’’ the President added. In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said all hands are on deck, with the Inter-ministerial Committee working to ensure that the project is actualized in a way that is beneficial to all parties. The Minister said a strong emphasis will be placed on maintenance and sustainability of the AMCE. The President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah said the ceremony was “one step towards self-reliance for Africa’s health care delivery,” as the project will pool world-class technology and global talents, particularly the African diaspora, to provide a full spectrum of quality medical services in oncology, haematology, cardiology, and general healthcare services. Oramah noted that the 500-bed and estimated 300 million US dollar-AMCE was conceived to promote intra-African medical tourism and reduce the outflow of over 7 billion US dollars annually in out-bound medical tourism. He said the vision for AMCE was borne out of a personal experience he encountered following his recovery from a potentially life-threatening blood disorder.