04 June 2018
Health Champion Amadou Kanouté Founder of the Pan-African Institute for Consumer Citizenship and Development (CICODEV), Senegal Featured
Health is central to everything, says Amadou. A veteran of the international aid field, the 63-year-old now spends his days working tirelessly to achieve healthcare for everyone in Senegal. In 2013, the Senegalese government launched a universal health coverage programme, but poverty, high illiteracy rates and historic mistrust of politicians stymied people’s enthusiasm for the project.
Supported by international donors, Amadou has succeeded in turning back the tide of negativity. After listening to grassroots discussions, he shares local people’s views and potential policy solutions with government officials to further understanding between people and politicians. The ultimate aim is that locals and national leaders can find solutions to problems, such as healthcare, without outside aid. And that will take political will. Creating lasting self-reliance in countries like Senegal will only be achieved if the Amadous of this world are allowed to work their magic.
The government’s programme has the potential to increase access to healthcare, save lives and increase prosperity, but initially struggled to get off the ground. With international support, Amadou helped accelerate its implementation. Three years ago, only 20% of the Senegalese population were signed up to the programme. Today, the participation rate is up to nearly 50%. This will create significant benefits for individuals and Senegal as a whole.
So what’s the secret? Amadou’s success relies on organising community meetings to discuss the healthcare reforms and getting important groups, such as women, on board. After listening to people's ideas and frustrations, Amadou shares them with government officials, suggests policy options to address problems, and then carries out surveys to see how changes are viewed and whether politicians are keeping their promises.
But this could not happen without international support. With sustained targeted aid and the EU's promise to spend 20% of its development budget on health and education, this positive trend should continue.
However, any downturn in funding will significantly impact the work of local heroes like Amadou to create such connections, otherwise known as citizen-state compacts. “What motivates me more than anything else is getting to hear the government…making decisions on some of the things that we have highlighted through our work,” concludes Amadou. His approach requires time and patience, but the results are priceless.