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BANKING

Banks step in to end African medical tourism

Covid-19 has refocused attention on the urgent need to address long-term structural healthcare issues in Africa. Investors are now looking to put money to work in healthcare and banks are seeing an uptick in demand for project financing.

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“When this virus struck, we found out that only 28% – less than one third – of health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have reliable sources of energy,” says Amani Abou-Zeid, commissioner for infrastructure and energy at the African Union Commission. “That is frightening.”

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Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, African Union Commission 

Covid-19 infection rates in the African continent may be lower than elsewhere as yet, but the pandemic has exposed the urgency of Africa’s healthcare needs and the challenge of meeting them.

“We have an urgent target to make sure all the health facilities have reliable sources of energy,” says Abou-Zeid. “Decentralized power stations, renewable energy, mini and off-grid solutions should be prioritized.”

Multilateral development banks such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have announced large targeted financing packages to support healthcare systems coping with the immediate Covid-19 crisis. China has sent planeloads of personal protective equipment to the region.

But bankers say the crisis will also accelerate financing aimed at tackling longer-term, structural problems.