Why HIV is bad for our African economies: Message to collegiates and African young people.

Sineke Sibanda

A few weeks ago, a local newspaper here in Zimbabwe published a story that despite an overal fair decline in cases of HIV in our country, about 3 provinces had inadvertently recorded a rise of upto approximately 3% in new infections, labeling them high speed hotspots. Of course I did not take heed to it at first as I thought it didn’t really concern me. But wait! I thought to myself. With issues like HIV that have no cure as yet, we might be in trouble if this trend keeps going on.

After a chat with a colleague, I was thinking through the bigger picture. For instance, what does it mean to have an active age-group being infected by HIV/AIDS? I thought through it in terms of how it affects our economy, and it was sad that we might be on a regressive course.

According to the World Health Organisation, Africa is still battling to contain the virus and subsequently its affecting economic development in most of our countries. Roberts, Dixon and McDonald (2002) in their health economics theory article (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1122139/) argue that HIV/AIDS reduces labour supply, and productivity, it also reduces exports while increasing imports.

True, this sort of situation is bound to happen in a situation where the workforce is weak and is largely on medication. It means we need more hospitals than we need to build new companies because at the end of it all, our people are more important than anything else. Because the people that are supposed to be manufacturing the drugs are off sick, it means we have to lose money through imports, low productivity and forget about the exports we could be making.

When I looked at it this way, that is when I thought its probably something we need to think about as young people of Africa with the hope of seeing Agenda 2063 come to fruition.

A case in point is Zimbabwe, where an annual budget is $4 billion, and of that amount, 8.3% (US$330.79 million)  (UNICEF, 2016) [https://www.unicef.org/zimbabwe/Zimbabwe_2016_Health_and_Child_Care_Budget_Brief.pdf] was dedicated to the health ministry. Sad to note that the ministry itself was worried that the allocation was very inadequate, this means only one thing, that we have more sick people and need to cultivate a culture of healthy living and avoid what we can.

What is more heartbreaking in the case in point is that the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development was allocated 7.6% and these are the institutions that should device methods of making our countries better. Probably, if we had fewer sick people, we would have half of the health ministry allocation going toour science and technology development ministry. The UNICEF made this conclusion on the budget:
The 2016 health care allocation is 1.6% lower than the total budget allocated in 2013, mainly reflecting a weakening fiscal environment constraining government spending in general, and health & child care in particular, (UNICEF, 2016: 3)

This case is not only unique to Zimbabwe, I’m sure some countries share in this calamity too but it all calls us to do one thing, take possible action to save the future if we cannot save ourselves.

Depite some of these epidemics being those we can control, they have continued to keep us pre-occupied and subsequently stalling development. According to the Amfar (http://www.amfar.org/worldwide-aids-stats/) statistics, in 2015, there were 19 million people in East and Southern Africa—more than half of whom were women—living with HIV in eastern and southern Africa, and an estimated 960,000 people became newly infected.

In 2015, 470,000 people died of AIDS-related causes. Eastern and southern Africa accounts for 46% of the global total of new HIV infections. The statistics are not quite pleasing to be honest, so on a yearly basis, the world loses about 15 million people to HIV related deaths.

I don’t at all intend to paint a gloomy picture, but for something we can control as African college students and young people, we can surely do better to make our home a beter place. I’m also in search of ideas on how best we can work on this together. As we speak, according to the Economic theory predictions, the pandemic has already reduced average national economic growth rates by 2-4% a year across Africa. Imagine how else we could have used these ‘losses’…

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