Governments across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are increasingly looking to utilize public-private partnerships (PPPs) in order to gain efficiencies, mobilize additional resources, and extend services to their citizens, residents, and visitors, according to the latest observations from International Data Corporation (IDC), the premier global market intelligence and advisory firm for the information technology and telecommunications markets.
Such partnerships are proving popular not only in the traditional fields of mega-infrastructure projects such as roads and mass transit systems, but also as an alternate means of expanding and enhancing the delivery of services, modernizing education and healthcare systems, and increasing the availability and diffusion of ICT, without necessarily having to directly allocate capital expenditure to such initiatives. Supporting this claim of surging popularity, the World Bank’s Private Participation in Infrastructure database indicates that, while the MEA region accounted for approximately 6% (or $47.84 billion) of global investment on PPP infrastructure projects between 1990–2000, that share grew to approximately 15% (or $126.50 billion) in the period between 2001 and 2008.
“Across the region, various PPP initiatives are being undertaken by private ICT players, with the support of the respective governments, to build infrastructure and deliver services across the judiciary, transportation, education, and healthcare sectors,” says Mukesh Chulani, senior research analyst the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey at IDC Government Insights. “There are various highly innovative information and communication technologies embedded within PPP initiatives regionally, ranging from a traffic incident automation solution in South Africa to a national training program aimed at developing basic ICT skills among high school students in Turkey.”
Coming from a backdrop where public capital was the sole source of funding for social amenities and infrastructure, and where governments designed, built, maintained, and operated various entities, there are now successful and innovative PPP examples within the MEA region that have had a demonstrable impact while shifting more risk to the private sector. Indeed, in some cases, technology solutions originating in the Middle East and Africa have proved so successful that they have subsequently been deployed to other projects across the globe.
In IDC Government Insights’ report, ‘Public-Private Partnerships: Examples of Successful Technology Collaboration in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa’, Mr. Chulani highlights the case of the ‘SMS for Life‘ project in Tanzania, which is an ongoing collaboration to improve the management of anti-malarial medication inventory levels that is led by Novartis in conjunction with IBM, Vodafone, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and the Tanzanaian government’s National Malaria Control Programme.
Launched in September 2009, the SMS for Life project was first implemented as a pilot in three rural districts in Tanzania, covering 129 health facilities and a total population of approximately 1.2 million people. Over a period of five months, the system effectively provided information on the inventory levels of anti-malarial treatments, leading to a more efficient supply chain and a 300% improvement in the availability of such medication, greatly reducing the number of deaths from malaria.
So successful was the pilot that the project is now being rolled out nationwide to cover 5,000 health facilities and a population of more than 40 million people, while Kenya and Ghana are set to implement trials of their own based on the same technology.
“Given the ease of deployment and wide-ranging applicability of the SMS for Life project, it would make sense to replicate such a PPP initiative elsewhere, extending its reach to improve the visibility of medication inventory levels for other disease areas as well,” says Chulani. “However, despite the clear progress that is being made across the Middle East and Africa, the region’s governments have yet fully to harness the true potential of PPPs. More work needs to be done to educate internal stakeholders, develop and administer effective policies, and assess the capabilities of existing public sector institutions in order to aid the implementation and management of successful PPPs.”