I first interacted with the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) in November 2015 and thought yes, that’s exactly what we need – an African voice on the global platform and a platform through which we can translate that agenda for Ugandan citizens and to our colleagues across the continent.
The Network has since grown, with more than 100 members from across Africa and the world. From influencing the engagement of civil society at national level in the Global Financing Facility to the collaboration with CSBAG to advocate for an increase in the health budget to cater for salaries of more health workers in Uganda, the Network has found an important niche which needed filling.
I'd seen how the Network's coordinator, Aminu Magashi Garba, had strategically placed AHBN in global meetings. It is clearly striving to ensure that the global agenda and mechanisms such as the Global Financing Facility, universal health coverage and Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health have a robust contribution from civil society organisations in Africa as well as ensuring effective feedback mechanisms between global, regional and country level.
So, two years on and I’ve recently been elected as Chair of the Steering Committee at the Network’s inaugural meeting held in London at the beginning of September.
The committee members from left to right are:
- George Osei-Bimpeh, SEND-Ghana, Ghana
- Claire Schouten, International Budget Partnership, UK/Canada
- Maty Dia, Switzerland/Senegal
- Suzanna Dennis, Population Action International, USA
- Julius Mukunda (Chair), Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group, Uganda
- And Karen Rono, Development Initiatives, Kenya who joined us via Skype
As we arrive from our various corners of the globe – and Karen in Nairobi logs into Skype to join – I am struck by what an impressive team has assembled. Their expertise, commitment and the level of enthusiasm is captivating, the team is passionate about public financing for health.
The Secretariat, too, is clearly excited about the prospect of working with us to change the dynamic and add perspective.
Together with our inspired facilitator, Ann Pettifor from Advocacy International, we answered the call to help drive the Network’s strategy forward, to act as its ambassadors and provide technical expertise based on our wide experience.
We answered the call to take the Network to the next level. We also answered the call to make public financing for health visible to the global agenda.
There are many strengths and many opportunities, such as the Network’s ability to synthesise and communicate evidence, the engagement that the Network has already had with important global platforms and how civil society is increasingly being recognised as key to delivering on the sustainable development goals commitments. Our membership brings different synergies and abilities - we will be a force to reckon with at the global level.
We agreed on a new goal for the Network: The Africa Health Budget Network enables African civil society organisations to meaningfully influence policy and public spending on health to improve the lives of women and children.
This captures the need to alter the balance of power, so that public spending reflects the needs of the African people. Through civil society organisations, we must work to grow the public’s influence and capacity to change their debate on how and on what their money is spent.
We must do more, though, to bring along the Network’s growing membership with us, to leverage their skills and knowledge for the good of all members. We must gain better insight into what they need from us and to represent their issues on the global platforms where we operate.
We encourage all AHBN members to regularly share with the Network as much information as you can, which would contribute to making us more effective in our advocacy for better health on the continent– this is your Network and we want to make sure our strategy responds to your needs.
I am delighted to be part of this group and am very keen to get started on implementing our plans.
I sincerely thank the team who entrusted me to take the leadership mantle of AHBN….and congratulate my fellow Steering Committee members for accepting to be part of this exciting journey of reinventing and revitalising AHBN.