NIGERIA’S health care sector is to get a major push courtesy of a $1million public-private coalition investment to save one million lives of women and children from preventable diseases such as malaria, malnutrition, lack of access to life-saving commodities and suboptimal supply chain systems, among others.

The investment, which is driven by the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), aimed at mobilising Nigeria ‘s private sector to improve health outcomes, is via a Health Innovation Challenge (HIC).

The initiative, which is the first of its kind in Africa, will enable Nigeria accelerate progress in achieving health-related MDGs as the 2015 target approaches.

The HIC, which will be launched on December 5, 2014 by leading private sector business leaders in Nigeria, including Herbert Wigwe (CEO, Access Bank and chair of the innovation challenge), Aliko Dangote as well as Jim Ovia, will identify and support promising innovative models to improve healthcare service delivery in Nigeria’s healthcare system.

Supported innovations include new technologies, unlocking markets and processes targeted at addressing evidence-based healthcare challenges that respond to various geopolitical and socio-cultural peculiarities in Nigeria.

Wigwe, CEO Access Bank and Chair of PHN’s steering committee, disclosed that the HIC would inspire a wave of private sector-driven innovation to enable Nigeria achieve its saving one million lives target and improve health outcomes.

Ovia, Chairman, Zenith Bank and co-chair of the alliance, hinted that the landmark HIC signals the emergence of a compelling new model to attract and leverage private sector capabilities to foster the realisation of pragmatic and scale-able solutions to Nigeria’s healthcare challenges.

According to Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq, CEO, PHN, investments for winning innovative pitches will be disbursed through a result-based approach given the paradigm shift in the health sector from a focus on inputs to one additionally focused on outcomes and the number of lives saved.

He said: “The HIC will be open to individual innovators, group of individuals, corporate organisations, NGOs, academic institutions etc many of whom are players in the Nigerian Health Innovation Market (NHIM). A virtual innovation hub has been developed to serve as a convergence platform for all actors of the health innovation ecosystem.”

An examination of the HIC shows that it will be conducted in three phases. Details of the application process and cash investment for winners of the innovation challenge are expected to be disclosed during the inaugural health innovators community of practice meeting convened by the PHN.

Dangote, Founding Patron of the Alliance, said that the lives of Nigerian women and children represent the most important asset hence ‘through spurring health innovation, we shall do everything to safeguard them.’

The vision of PHN is to build an unprecedented, world class private sector-led coalition that focuses on accelerating improvement in health outcomes through advocacy, innovation, impact investments and partnerships to save at least one million lives of women and children in Nigeria.