• WisBusiness

Monday, June 27, 2011

 3:28 PM 

Wisconsin 'welcome' focuses on global health

By Michael Flaherty
WASHINGTON - The role of tackling global health challenges in the developing world have switched from one in which governments are leading the effort to a new environment in which private health care researchers, scientists and businesses are taking over the effort, three Wisconsin international diplomats said Monday on Capitol Hill.

The three took part in a “Wisconsin Welcome to Washington to Global Health’’ luncheon for those attending this year’s BIO International Convention in downtown Washington, D.C. The event was produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

There are enormous emerging opportunities for entrepreneurship and trade – most notably in Africa, agreed former ambassadors Mark Green and Tom Loftus and Anthony Carroll, a UW-Madison graduate and former deputy counsel for the U.S. Peace Corps.

In many ways, they added, Wisconsin experts and businesses – many of them with ties to the University of Wisconsin – are in the middle of these new developments.

“The barriers have been broken down,’’ said Green, former ambassador to Tanzania and U.S. Representative from Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District. “Bring your know-how and your entrepreneurial skills. There are opportunities like never before to make a huge difference in global health,’’ he told a mixed group of foreign trade officials, congressional staff, and Wisconsin business leaders attending BIO.

There is still an enormous amount of work to solve health problems in Africa, Loftus said. But governments in several African nations have become much more stable – and that has opened the way for a great deal of success in introducing new technologies and drugs to fight AIDS, malaria and a host of tropical diseases that have devastated Africa for centuries.

“This is Africa’s moment,’’ said Carroll, who earned a masters degree at UW-Madison and still advises the university’s Division of International Studies. “Five out of 10 of the fastest growing countries in the world are in Africa. And, according to Goldman Sachs, the five out of the 10 fastest growing in the next 10 years will be in Africa.”

As those countries grow, their private health care systems are taking off as well, he said. “In Kenya, 70 percent of all health care is already delivered by the private sector," noted Carroll,who is vice president of Manchester Trade Ltd.

At the center of many of these opportunities are scientists, policy advisors and international development specialists with links to Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin, one of the world’s most “international’’ universities, they noted. Wisconsin’s rapidly growing biotechnology sectors are also in the mix, developing new drugs, therapies and technologies to treat diseases.

Doing business in Africa is risky and can be difficult, they warned. But Nigeria alone has 160 million people and more health care workers than all the other 52 African nation’s combined.

“We’re going to have to give Africa some added consideration,’’ commented Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation CEO Paul Jadin, Gov. Scott Walker’s new version of Commerce Secretary. “When we think about trade missions, Africa doesn’t usually come to mind. But there are clearly opportunities here that we’ll have to explore.”

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