By Adelyn Wangusi
A new emergency loan guarantee facility makes more than USD$30 million available to private, small- and medium enterprise (SME) health providers in five high malaria burden African countries. The loans will support healthcare providers in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda to continue offering essential health services, including malaria treatments, to more than five million Africans.
The facility was created by the Health Finance Coalition, a group of leading philanthropies, investors, donors and technical partners focused on mobilizing significant private investment to achieve transformative healthcare impact in Africa.
According to Ken Staley, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, the private sector provides millions of people in Africa with essential health care for malaria and other diseases. “PMI is proud to support this effort to help ensure they can continue their life-saving work during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
Private sector healthcare providers deliver nearly 50 percent of all healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, including life-saving interventions such as early malaria diagnosis and treatment, ante-natal care and routine vaccinations.
If left unaddressed, these vital health needs could overwhelm already overburdened health systems and add to the loss of life during the pandemic. Projections in 2020, for example, estimated that moderate disruptions in treatment seeking could lead to as many as 100,000 additional malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This facility is one of the first solutions of its kind to address the twin health and economic crises facing the private health sector in Africa due to COVID-19. We hope it will spark a broader response using creative finance solutions to save lives from malaria and address Africa’s most urgent health needs,” said Martin Edlund, CEO, Malaria No More.
As countries have shut down sectors of their economies and asked citizens to remain at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, all health providers have seen a decrease in demand for services. For private healthcare providers, this also means decreased revenues, putting them at risk of closing during a time when access to care is already a challenge.
The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative is one of the first initiatives to address the economic crunch that the private health sector in Africa is facing due to COVID-19. A catalytic $700,000 investment by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) enables a $17.7 million loan guarantee from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and $1.5 million in philanthropic funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, and the MCJ Amelior Foundation. Together, this effort unlocks more than $30 million in loans to SME health providers. Additional support comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Innovation and Impact (CII).
Of the five million patients that the loan facility could impact, almost 3 million are low-income patients, and approximately 2.4 million are women and 1.4 million are children, who are disproportionately at risk of malaria and other infectious diseases.
Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing and Chair, the MCJ Amelior Foundation said with COVID-19 putting tremendous financial pressure on health budgets across Africa, we need creative financing solutions to help governments achieve their ambitious health goals. “The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative, which supports private health providers through a blend of grants and return-seeking capital, is a leading example. I hope to see strategies such as this one scaled up in the months to come,” said Ray.
The loan facility will be managed by Malaria No More and loans will be administered through the Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit health investment fund. Loans are expected to average $17,000 per provider to help stabilize operations, buy essential medical equipment including personal protective equipment, and finance small-scale construction to protect patients from COVID-19 infection. MCF’s partner organization SafeCare, in collaboration with PMI, will provide training materials to facilities on how to continue providing routine services safely during the pandemic.