How diverse is medical care in different African countries?

There are different types of healthcare systems all over the world. In this article we focus on different African countries that we have worked in and how their healthcare systems differ from one another or whether they even offer any form of healthcare at all. People often think of Africa as one place, but forget that all the countries in Africa have different traditions, religion, political views, healthcare systems, diverse use of medicine, etc.

When it comes to healthcare, the type of healthcare sector often leads to whether a person survives or not, depending on the condition of the healthcare facility. In some countries the public healthcare sector has such high standards, that it can even be compared to another country’s private healthcare sector. Or sometimes the public healthcare sector can be so poor that people have no other option but turning to the private healthcare sector straight away.

First of all, it is important to know the difference between public and private healthcare sectors.

Public Healthcare Sector vs. Private Healthcare Sector

The public sector ensures that everybody have access to basic medical care. It consists of general public hospitals, healthcare centres, hygiene institutions.

The private sector allows those people who can afford it, to have a bigger variety of healthcare choices according to their preferences. This includes clinics, private hospitals, specialist practitioners, etc.

Healthcare System in Benin

Benin offers a public healthcare system and for those who can afford it, there is also a private healthcare system. Some people still choose going to traditional healers for medical support. Although it is a relatively big country, there are only four hospitals in the country and just 0.1 doctors for every 1000 people.[1] And because people have to pay upfront before receiving medical care, this often leads to the spreading of illnesses which could be fatal to many since most people cannot afford the upfront payment.

 Healthcare System in Ghana

The government in Ghana provides most of the healthcare in the country. They have a universal health care system, National Health Insurance Scheme, which offers a high level of healthcare quality. [2]  The country has a sophisticated administrative structure for the regulation of medical education and certification. But unfortunately, this is not always the case in the rural areas, since the facilities for health care are mostly short of staff. [3]

Healthcare System in Ivory Coast

In the Ivory Coast they offer both private and public healthcare sectors. The public healthcare services are more important than the smaller group of private healthcare services. During the 1980’s, the costs for public healthcare increased progressively and still this type of healthcare system was unable to meet the health care requirements of most of the population. For those people who could afford it, health care was put before those of the poor families living in the rural areas. Even though there are healthcare facilities, there is a big shortage of equipment, medicine and staff. This still often lead to people turning to traditional healers for medical treatment.[4]

 Healthcare System in Algeria

The government in Algeria provides universal health care which covers 90% of the population.  Under the public healthcare system, people such as the poor, children and the older people, are entitled to free healthcare. Wealthier citizens on the other hand, must pay a part of their healthcare which is done according to a sliding scale.[5] Instead of investing in expensive hospitals, the government rather invest in bigger healthcare centres and clinics. The reason the country can offer a good healthcare system without any staff shortage, is because of the requirement that medical staff have to work for the public health sector for at least five years.[6]

Healthcare System in Sierra Leone

Healthcare in Sierra Leone is mostly charged for and is provided by a combination of government, private and non-governmental organisations. A free health care medical insurance started in 2010 which offers free healthcare for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under the age of five. [7] The rest of the population pay for their medical expenses or some make use traditional healers for medicine and medical care. There are around 45 private clinics and 27 private hospitals in the Freetown area.[8]

Healthcare System in Angola

Healthcare in Angola in rated one of the worst in the world. The healthcare system includes both public and private healthcare sectors.  ‘The National Health Service is run by the Ministry of Health, the Provincial Governments which run Provincial Hospitals and the Municipal Administrations which run Municipal Hospitals, Health Care Units and Posts.’[9] Although public medical treatment is said to be for free, people must pay for private treatment, as public healthcare is not simply accessible for most people all over the country.[10] Apart from the accessibility, the standards regarding cleanliness, the availability of medication and enough medical staff are very poor in most hospitals and healthcare centres.  Private healthcare is expensive and people are expected to pay upfront in cash in order to receive any medical treatments.[11]

Healthcare System in Cameroon

The healthcare system in Cameroon consist of a public sector, a private sector and traditional healthcare. The public healthcare sector provides most of the population with cheap healthcare services and access to medication.

The country has around 2043 public medical facilities, which are mainly found in the urban areas. Medical treatment in the rural areas are very rare. In order for people to receive medical treatment, an upfront payment in cash is often required. Sometimes it is also compulsory for relatives to buy medical supplies which the patients need in order to be treated. When people make use of private healthcare, they are expected to pay for all medical treatment themselves which is very expensive for the standards of the country. Apart from the expensive healthcare, the lack of medical staff is a sad reality in Cameroon. The reasons for this are mostly because of the low salaries, bad working conditions, too much work for the amount of staff available, lack of medical equipment to work with, lack of medical training, etc.[12]


Keywords: Healthcare, Private Healthcare Sector, Public Healthcare Sector, Traditional Healthcare, Traditional Healers.




[2] [3] The Medical System in Ghana, Global Health and Development, Yale J Biol Med., Published online 2014 Sep 3.


[5] [6] “Investment in expanding clinics and hospitals improving Algeria’s health indicators”. Oxford Business Group. Retrieved 2016-05-17.

[7] Primary health care and family medicine in Sierra Leone, Afr J Prim Health Care Fam Med, 2019.

[8] “Sierra Leone starts free care for mothers and children”. BBC News. 27 April 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.

[9] Lexology. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 25 December 2018.

[10] [11] Just landed, Private and public healthcare, The system in Angola.



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