SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

June 04, 2015 09:00 ET

Ebola Response Reveals the Need for New Models for Collaboration Between the Private and Public Sectors

A Report by the World Economic Forum and BCG Analyzes the Private Sector's Response to the Ebola Outbreak and Distills Lessons for Public-Private Partnerships in Future Health Crises

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA--(Marketwired - Jun 4, 2015) - The private sector played an important role in the global response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa not only by providing financial and in-kind donations but also by acting as a partner to support response activities. Yet the private sector's engagement with the public sector was often uncoordinated. There is an urgent need to develop public-private partnerships that encourage preparedness and develop ways of working in advance of future health emergencies, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The report, titled Managing the Risk and Impact of Future Epidemics: Options for Public-Private Cooperation, is being released today.

"The Ebola crisis in West Africa demonstrated the need for new solutions and new ways of working to prevent and respond to public health emergencies," said Trish Stroman, a BCG partner who led the firm's support to the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response at the height of the crisis. "Given the capabilities and resources of the private sector, it has a critical role to play."

To better understand the role that the private sector played in the Ebola response, as well as the missed opportunities in the private sector's engagement, the report examines more than 200 response activities reported by the Ebola Private Sector Mobilization Group and the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The report reveals a clear role for private companies in public health emergencies, as well as the value that public-private collaboration can bring to emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak. During the Ebola response, the private sector in West Africa provided local capacity to support response activities. Across the globe, companies with specific expertise in areas such as logistics, telecommunications, or data analysis provided capacity or services. The private sector was often also at the forefront of innovation, particularly in biomedical research and mobile data and communications. "These innovations that the private and public sectors are partnering on are providing new ways to fight disease," notes Mathieu Lamiaux, a senior partner who leads BCG's Health Care practice in Western Europe, South America, and Africa. "There is an incredible opportunity for the public and private sectors to join forces to better tackle public health threats."

"Leveraging public-private partnerships more effectively to ensure private sector capabilities and resources are used efficiently is key for the preparedness, response and recovery efforts of future epidemics," said Arnaud Bernaert, Senior Director and Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries, World Economic Forum. "As the international institution for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum is leveraging its capabilities to assess lessons learned from the Ebola crisis, and to convene private industry leaders to develop more effective partnerships with their public counterparts."

Given the value of greater public-private collaboration, better models for engagement are needed. "While there were many examples of positive collaboration between the two groups, there was also a lack of clear coordination between the local private sector and the national emergency-planning centers as well as between the international public agencies and the private companies," said Shalini Unnikrishnan, a BCG principal.

Partnership models will depend on the capabilities and roles of both the public and private organizations involved. The report identifies three core roles that the private sector played during the outbreak:

  • In-country operators, which provided resources in the affected regions and had knowledge of local communities
  • Expert-capability companies, which donated specialized expertise in areas such as logistics or biopharmaceutical research
  • Greater private-sector contributors, which provided assistance in the form of donations or specific expertise

The report identifies different types of public-private partnerships, networks, and contact points that are likely needed to best organize each of the three groups. But all models must develop protocols for emergency preparedness so they can respond quickly in the event of an emergency. The partnerships will need to provide real value for those involved and be flexible enough to accommodate a range of needs while still encouraging innovation.

Progress in these areas will require an ongoing commitment and dedicated resources -- well in advance of the next health emergency. "Many of the challenges of public-private interaction during the Ebola response came from the fact that too many parties were not prepared to work with each other," says Wendy Woods, a BCG senior partner and global leader the firm's Social Impact Practice Network. "Partnerships between the public and private sectors must develop trust and new ways of working together before a public health emergency arises."

A copy of the report can be downloaded at

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or

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