Strengthening Strategic Purchasing Expertise in Africa

Strategic purchasing enables health systems to use public health funds efficiently to deliver affordable, high-quality health services to more people in an equitable way. But doing so requires both technical expertise and the ability to manage change in resource-constrained environments.

To build and channel existing expertise in sub-Saharan Africa, Results for Development is partnering with AMREF, a Nairobi, Kenya-based organization, to establish a Strategic Purchasing Africa Resource Center (SPARC). SPARC will match this expertise to country demand by brokering tailored packages of strategic purchasing support. SPARC will also provide capacity-building and support for its network of experts and foster peer learning.

The Challenge

In the last two decades, we’ve seen low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) mobilize and commit an unprecedented amount of funding to health, which is a crucial step toward stronger, self-sustaining health systems and universal health coverage.

But many challenges remain for LMIC governments, including figuring out how to direct limited funds to priority populations and services, and how to create the right incentives in the system to use funds efficiently for high-quality care and prevention to be accessible to as many people as possible.

Since governments are often the largest single purchasers of health services in a country, they have the power to shape the health care market and service delivery. But to do so requires knowledge of how to maximize the value of investments — and the ability to navigate a complex array of stakeholders with varying interests and motivations.

Many in the global health community have provided short-term technical assistance and capacity-building for strategic purchasing. However, these “fly-in/fly-out” approaches do not provide the opportunity to deeply understand the local context or adequately address underlying issues. They also often overlook or fail to strengthen existing local expertise.

The Opportunity

A new approach is needed — one that connects regional demand for expertise with regional experts who can work effectively in politically sensitive environments and provide sustained support; offers mentorship and support to regional experts; and encourages feedback loops, iterative learning and knowledge-sharing across borders.

Our Work

Results for Development and Amref Health Africa  — with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — will establish the Strategic Purchasing Africa Resource Center (SPARC).

SPARC will leverage and expand on existing expertise by identifying and engaging key players and stakeholders within government agencies, academic institutions and NGOs — thus building and supporting a cadre of regional experts. SPARC will connect these experts to one another to share real-time implementation experience and for peer support and learning, while also offering coaching, mentoring and access to global resources to broaden and strengthen expertise.

SPARC and its partners will also serve as a broker between regional strategic purchasing experts, and country institutions seeking such expertise. SPARC will work with countries to co-develop packages of strategic purchasing support to meet their needs drawing on the cadre of regional experts. Countries will then be able to purchase these packages of services using their own funds or donor support, thus ensuring the SPARC network’s financial sustainability.

SPARC will also serve as a resource and knowledge management hub, allowing us to learn more about what works in which contexts while aggregating lessons learned and supporting resources and sharing them with others in the network.

Since many local and global actors are already working in health financing in sub-Saharan Africa, SPARC will aim to complement, rather than duplicate, existing initiatives, including the African Collaborative for Health Financing Solutions (ACS). An Advisory Committee of global and regional stakeholders will provide guidance on the design of the SPARC model and implementation activities.

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