Continuing the Africa Sustainable Investment Forum’s look at the June 2010 McKinsey Quarterly’s focus on Africa's growth, this week’s blog post will offer a perspective on the article titled “Strengthening sub-Saharan Africa’s health systems: A practical approach”, by Lowell Bryan, Michael Conway, Tineke Keesmaat, Sorcha McKenna, and Ben Richardson. 

As an independent not-for-profit network, knowledgebase and advocate for sustainable investment across Africa, AfricaSIF recognizes that opportunities for improvement in Africa’s health care delivery are also opportunities for job growth, and investment aligned with environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practices.

Despite recent leaps forward for the state of health in Africa, including dropping infection and death rates from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis in select nations, huge gaps persist. The results of a joint study by McKinsey and the Touch Foundation in Tanzania’s Lake Zone illustrate where providers are falling short in terms of care delivery and patient experience, via four “clinical pathways”: malaria, child health, maternal health, and trauma care. The study found near-universal occurrence of inadequate access to primary care, a workforce too tiny to handle demand, and “operational weaknesses” involving funding and productivity.

In addition to mention of affordable delivery channels as promising solutions (discussed further in an earlier blog posting, the article also mentions applying the social franchising model to health care centers. Clearly job creation, as evidenced by the success of the Sustainable Healthcare Foundation’s Child and Family Wellness clinics in Kenya, is a welcome ancillary benefit. Financially-healthy care centers would be able to provide the salaries to their workers that would keep them functioning efficiently, and precedent shows that even the very poor exhibit a willingness to pay for quality services, even if a payment plan is necessitated.

Owner-operated clinics would not only provide critically-needed health care services, but if conducted in compliance with ESG standards of sustainable investment, could also hold tremendous potential as a opportunity for economic growth in Africa. However, currently it is not-for-profit agencies that are most active in the application of business models to social service provision. AfricaSIF looks forward to the entrance of forward-thinking businesses interested in a model that not only serves the so-called “bottom of the pyramid” but provides economic opportunities for Africa’s poorest too.

- CB