IFC: Helping Africa Secure Essential Medical Equipment

  • In Africa, many healthcare providers lack the funds for specialized medical gear.
  • African countries face a shortage of equipment such as MRI machines and CT scanners.
  • IFC’s Africa Medical Equipment Facility will help providers secure loans to buy or lease equipment.

Governments around the world are counting on vaccines to protect populations and turn the tide against COVID-19. Meanwhile, African healthcare providers are also in desperate need of essential—but often costly—medical equipment to deliver quality care to those already suffering.

In many sub-Saharan African countries, private healthcare providers are an important part of the health system, serving millions of patients.

Amid COVID-19, however, many smaller healthcare providers are lacking the funds to acquire specialized medical equipment to boost their response and care efforts, and access to finance to buy or lease equipment is proving a challenge.

How tough is the situation in Africa? A survey of WHO member states found that only 11 percent of respondent countries in Africa had at least one MRI machine per 1 million people—and only 24 percent had at least one CT scanner.

By comparison, 62 percent of countries in the Middle East and 89 percent in Europe had MRI machines, while 85 percent in the Middle East and 97 percent in Europe had CT scanners.

To respond to Africa’s growing need for top-notch medical equipment, IFC launched the Africa Medical Equipment Facility in partnership with equipment manufacturers and financial institutions. The goal is to help potentially hundreds of healthcare providers in seven African countries to start—Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda—secure loans to buy or lease the equipment they need to deliver the highest-quality care from lab equipment to MRI machines.

In the longer run, the facility should help build more resilient health systems in the countries it supports.

The new facility is part of IFC’s $4 billion Global Health Platform, which is helping to increase the availability of COVID-related medical supplies and services so the world’s poorest nations don’t get squeezed in the global scramble to buy supplies. It’s also supported by the International Development Association Private Sector Window (IDA-PSW) Blended Finance Facility and the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF).

“Unlocking access to finance can save lives now and will, in the long term, strengthen healthcare systems across the continent,” said Makhtar Diop, IFC’s Managing Director.

The Africa Medical Equipment Facility bridges the financing gap by providing risk-sharing facilities that will help small businesses access up to $300 million in loans to purchase or lease equipment. Risk-sharing is an effective instrument to encourage financial institutions to lend to smaller businesses. The loan size to small businesses is expected to range from $5,000 to $2 million.

The facility includes an advisory component to help small healthcare businesses strengthen their medical equipment procurement processes, financial management competencies and business planning so they know what equipment they need to buy and don’t overspend on unnecessary products. The advisory program will also help participating financial institutions to strengthen credit underwriting skills for the healthcare sector. And there will be collaboration with the equipment manufacturers to ensure the health care businesses receive training and maintenance support, ensuring the long-term use and benefits of the equipment.

The Co-operative Bank of Kenya is the first financial institution participating in the facility and Philips is the first medical equipment manufacturer. IFC expects to expand the financing to more countries and invites interested financial institutions and equipment manufacturers to reach out to their local IFC contact to explore partnerships under the Africa Medical Equipment Facility.

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