Vodafone improves maternal, infant health in Africa via technology

Patricia Obo-Nai, CEO - Vodafone Ghana

Chief Executive of Vodafone Ghana, Patricia Obo-Nai has said that the company is using his presence in sub-Saharan Africa to bridge the gender gap and improve maternal and infant health via technology.

She made the remark when she joined some influential world figures on two separate panel discussions on transforming the lives of women within sub-Saharan Africa at the United Nations General Assembly.

Her presentations focused on ‘The Role of Technology in Unlocking Gender Equality; Connecting Women to Maternal Health and Girls to Education’ particularly in sub-Sahara Africa.

Patricia Obo-Nai noted that a GSMA report showed that women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa are still 13% less likely to own a phone, and 37% less likely to use mobile data tools that can help them to live healthier lives and access better medical care during their pregnancy.

She said, in response to that gap, Vodafone has therefore made a commitment to add 20 million women living in Africa and Turkey on to the internet by 2025.

“We already have an estimated 46.2 million active female customers across these regions about 9.3 million more have been added on since our original goal was set in 2016,” she noted.

She said, through the power of mobile technology, Vodafone is also abating maternal and infant mortality in Africa, saying that the company is guided by the fact that a one percent reduction in child mortality could increase GDP by as much as 5% in African countries.

The Vodafone Ghana CEO explained that, faced with a situation where an expectant mother in sub-Saharan Africa is 50 times likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than a woman in Europe, Vodafone is taking steps to address the issue of maternal health with three transformational initiatives across sub-Saharan Africa involving.

She mentioned the three initiatives as – educating and empowering adolescent girls to make well-informed decisions about their health – giving emergency support for expectant mothers – and support for new mothers.

These interventions, Patricia Obo-Nai, stressed are already helping mothers become better informed on healthy pregnancy as well as promoting safe delivery and infant and child protection.

According to her, Vodafone Foundation has made over US$24 million philanthropic investments to support maternal health over the past decade, enabling one million women, girls and babies to receive life-saving treatments, transportation, medical care and health education.

“The Foundation’s M-Mama programme uses mobile technology to provide free emergency transport for pregnant rural women in obstetric crisis, delivering lifesaving interventions in partnership with governments,” she said.

The Vodafone Ghana CEO said in the regions of Tanzania, the M-Mama programme has been proven to reduce maternal mortality by 27% and it is sustainable within local health budgets.

She said early this month, the Vodafone Foundation announced the expansion of M-Mama to Lesotho and other sub-Saharan markets by 2025.

“In Ghana, Vodafone is working in partnership with the government and relevant stakeholders to implement this initiative by April 2021. The Office of the President and the Ghana Health Service have all shown earnest commitment in playing their part to help the country address the issue of ‘accessibility’ with M-Mama, which is projected to save about 400 lives each year,” she said.

Patricia Obo-Nai acknowledged that the outbreak of the COVID-19 presented multi-dimensional obstacles to Africa achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nonetheless, she believes that leveraging digital technology is a sure way out in accelerating the achievement of the 169 targets under the 17 SDGs by 2030.

Africa is currently the world’s fastest growing market for mobile phones and Patricia Obo-Nai said Vodafone is leveraging on that to drive its agenda to create a ‘Digital Society’ of connected people, communities and things on the continent.

“We are digitally empowering millions of people across the continent. Our pioneering interventions have seen some incredible success stories, where mobile phone capabilities are now being used to transform healthcare delivery, improve access to educational resources and deliver digital financial inclusion to the unbanked,” she said.

Despite all the positive interventions, she said Vodafone depends on the availability of spectrum across the continent, adding that “Governments must continue to invest in mobile communications infrastructure and introduce policies and regulations that will enable the telecoms industry to thrive and ultimately propel broad-based digitalization across the globe.”


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