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Rethinking health sector procurement as developmental linkages in East Africa

Mackintosh, M   Tibandebage, P   Njeru, M. K   Israel, C   Kungu, J. K   Mujinja, P. G. M

Social Science and Medicine   200 182-189


March 2018

This article uses fieldwork in Tanzania and Kenya in 2012–15 to analyse procurement of essential medicines and supplies as a governance process for the health system and its industrial links, drawing on aspects of global value chain theory. We describe procurement work processes as experienced by front line staff in public, faith-based and private sectors, linking these experiences to wholesale funding sources and purchasing practices, and examining their implications for medicines access and for local industrial development within these East African countries. We show that in a context of poor access to reliable medicines, extensive reliance on private medicines purchase, and increasing globalisation of procurement systems, domestic linkages between health and industrial sectors have been weakened, especially in Tanzania. We argue in consequence for a more developmental perspective on health sector procurement design, including closer policy attention to strengthening vertical and horizontal relational working within local health-industry value chains, in the interests of both wider access to treatment and improved industrial development in Africa.