Health SMEs in Africa to benefit from digital finance fund

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The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a catalytic investment of Sh900 million to Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit fund exclusively dedicated to financing small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) healthcare companies in Africa.

Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya, Maarten Brouwer said that the Fund is aimed at setting up innovative digital finance solutions to increase investments in African health infrastructure and improve access to quality primary healthcare services.

(L-R) Arjan Poels, Managing Director, Medical Credit Fund with Millicent Olulo, Regional Director, Advocacy and Partnerships, PharmAccess Foundation and Moses Kuria, Managing Director, CarePay Kenya during the launch of Medical Credit Fund (MCF2). The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a catalytic investment of Sh.900 million for the second stage of the fund.

“Health and development are closely intertwined, therefore driving the attainment of universal health coverage will ensure that all people, regardless of their social status, can access quality healthcare services,” said Amb. Brouwer.

Speaking during the celebrations of the first loan disbursement within Medical Credit Fund 2 at a Nairobi hotel on Monday, Amb. Brouwer announced that the funds will save small and medium sized healthcare companies that have poor infrastructure, limited means to invest in quality improvement and difficulty accessing capital from commercial banks.

“Public-private partnership is important to achieving health access. We must combine efforts to ensure health access to all,” he added.

Speaking at the event, Medical Credit Fund Managing Director, Arjan Poels said that the quality of infrastructure and equipment used in SMEs Hospitals affect the quality of care they offer to patients who visit their facilities.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of well-functioning health systems. MCF2 is geared towards driving equitable and quality healthcare by supporting healthcare clinics to improve the healthcare they deliver,” said Poels.

Poels further added that the MCF was built on the back of Kenya’s advanced mobile money ecosystem, which prompted the rolling of its cash advance, a loan product designed for health sectors’ access to financing.

In his remarks, PharmAccess Foundation Country Director Kenya, Isaiah Okoth said that the attainment of Universal Health Coverage requires a balance between enabling citizens to access care without experiencing financial hardships as well as availability of healthcare facilities that offer quality services.

Okoth said that by exercising digital lending, MCF was harnessing the potential of the mobile phone to improve access to quality healthcare in Africa. “Digital lending has proven crucial during the pandemic, with Covid-19 increasing mobile money use and reducing banks’ appetite for SME lending even further,” Okoth said.

The Foundation’s Country Director said most health facilities risked closure and could not access banks loans to cover cash flow gaps or buy personal protective equipment (PPEs), noting that Cash Advance turned out to be the solution due to its convenient and flexible nature.

He revealed that MCF was able to disburse Sh2.4 billion in 2020, and is currently averaging Sh433 million a month in disbursements since the beginning of 2021.

MCF Regional Director Advocacy and Partnerships, Millicent Olulo Orera on her part said, “We believe that better functioning healthcare markets are key in advancing Sustainable Development Goals, especially the goals that are related to Universal Health Coverage.”

Olulo stated that the fund is set to begin in its current countries of operation namely Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, then gradually extend to other countries.

The first beneficiary of MCF 2 is Sori Lakeside Hospital in Homabay County, who were awarded Sh4.25 million from the Medical Credit Fund.

By Moffin Opilio

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