Non-Communicable Diseases in Africa: A Hidden Crisis

November 2, 2023
5-minute read

Africa, often considered exotic and mystifying by the rest of the world, has long grappled with numerous health challenges. While infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis have traditionally dominated the global health agenda in Africa, there is a growing concern that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are being overlooked. This blog explores the potential link between Africa's exotic perception and the lack of attention given to NCDs, and why it is imperative to shift the focus toward tackling this emerging crisis 

Exotic Africa: A Double-Edged Sword 

Africa's diversity, vibrant cultures, and breathtaking landscapes have captivated the imagination of people worldwide. However, this perception of Africa as an exotic and distant land has inadvertently contributed to a skewed understanding of the continent's health challenges. When it comes to Africa, many still associate it primarily with infectious diseases, overlooking the rapid rise of NCDs. 

The Rising Burden of Non- Communicable Diseases

Africa is experiencing a dramatic increase in the prevalence of NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disorders. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs account for approximately 71% of all deaths in Africa, far surpassing the toll of infectious diseases. This silent epidemic is driven by various factors, including urbanization, lifestyle changes, and an aging population. Yet, the global health community often fails to address these pressing concerns, leaving Africans vulnerable to the devastating consequences of NCDs.

Implications of Neglecting NCDs 

Type image caption here (optional)The lack of attention given to NCDs in Africa has far-reaching consequences for individuals and communities across the continent. Firstly, it perpetuates a vicious cycle of health disparities. By focusing primarily on infectious diseases, funding and resources are disproportionately allocated, leaving healthcare systems ill-equipped to address the rising burden of NCDs. Consequently, the gap between the availability of treatment and the growing demand widens, deepening inequalities and exacerbating the suffering of those affected. Moreover, neglecting NCDs has profound economic implications. The economic burden of NCDs in Africa is substantial, both in terms of healthcare costs and lost productivity. The lack of investment in preventive measures and early detection means that diseases progress unchecked, resulting in more advanced stages requiring costlier treatments. This drains already strained healthcare systems, diverting resources that could be utilized for other essential health services. 

Shifting the Focus: Addressing NCDs in Africa 

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, stakeholders must prioritize NCDs in Africa and shift the focus from the prevailing infectious disease narrative. This paradigm shift requires coordinated efforts at various levels.

1.Awareness and Education: Increased awareness about NCDs is crucial to combat the prevailing misconceptions and biases. Health campaigns, community engagement, and educational initiatives can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices.

2. Strengthening Healthcare Systems: Investing in healthcare infrastructure, training healthcare professionals, and ensuring access to essential medicines and diagnostics are vital for early detection and effective management of NCDs. Primary healthcare systems need to be bolstered to provide comprehensive care and support for those affected.

3. Preventive Measures: Emphasizing preventive measures such as promoting healthy diets, physical activity, and tobacco control can significantly reduce the risk of NCDs. Collaboration with international organizations, governments, and non-profit organizations can facilitate the implementation of evidence-based interventions.

4. Research and Innovation: Increased investment in research and innovation is essential for understanding the unique challenges of NCDs in Africa. Local research initiatives can generate context-specific data and inform policies and interventions tailored to the needs of African populations. 


While Africa's exotic perception has fascinated the world, it has inadvertently overshadowed the growing threat of non-communicable diseases. The rise in NCDs poses a significant health and economic burden on the continent. It is crucial to recognize this silent epidemic and shift the focus to address NCDs adequately. By raising awareness, strengthening healthcare systems, promoting preventive measures, and investing in research and innovation, Africa can combat the emerging crisis of NCDs and improve the well-being of its people. Only through collective efforts can Africa's health systems truly evolve and protect its population from the devastating consequences of non-communicable diseases. 

Gurbinder Singh