Africa’s most ambitious O&P plan to date has been temporarily derailed by a local health department, despite a major investment offer from the Chinese government.
The city of Bhisho in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province may still end up hosting the proposed prosthetics factory and clinic, which was slated to inhabit the abandoned Mount Coke Hospital. However, South Africa’s Daily Dispatch reports that the provincial health department had backed out of the deal last week, stating that the Chinese investors were committed not to a public-private partnership, as had originally been discussed, but to a commercial venture—something for which the health department did not have expertise.
According to the Daily Dispatch, the Chinese agency in question, the National Research Center for Rehabilitation Technical Aids, had laid out an initial investment offer of more than $600 million (4.1 billion yuan) toward what would become a series of prosthetics clinics and the Bhisho factory. The factory was slated to be the largest of its kind in Africa, surpassing a Tanzanian factory described as currently being the continent’s largest.
Representatives of the center were described as being “shocked” at learning about the defunct deal from an article the Daily Dispatch. Kevin Hogg, the representative of the center, said, “We were surprised to read the article, more specifically the comments made by the Eastern Cape Department of Health whereby they indicated that they have in fact pulled out of this investment project. This is certainly news to us,” Hogg was quoted as saying. He did not comment on whether the center intended the hospital to be a public-private partnership or a commercial venture.
The proposed deal was announced by the then regional health minister, Nomsa Jajula, in 2007. The Daily Dispatch quoted her as saying that the Bhisho center would provide “clinical and educational services, construction and skills training, and that after 15 years [the] government would have been ready to take over.”
The project has already purportedly been delayed by recent elections. Hogg told the Daily Dispatch, “We are committed to the Eastern Cape, and it would be a shame for the project to be moved to another province.”