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Home » Women and Girls » Digital loans pave the way for women-led health SMEs

Bank terms are too bureaucratic compared to the ease with which I access the Medical Credit Fund digital loans.

Mrs. Esther Muthoni Karaya (pictured) owns ZamZam Medical Center, – a family house that is converted into a clinic, located South-West from Nairobi, Kenya. ZamZam offers services varying from maternal health and immunisation to laboratory tests and dental care. Because the building was not in her name, Mrs. Karaya had often struggled to obtain financing.

Health SMEs in Africa want to grow and improve the quality of their services. But they need access to capital, which is a challenge — especially for female entrepreneurs.

Less than half of Africa’s citizens (48%) — some 615 million people — have access to the healthcare they need. And when the quality of healthcare services is considered, coverage is even lower. The public sector is unable to meet all healthcare needs; and with a growing population, more are being left to the private health sector to fill the gaps.

ZamZam Medical Services

Financing healthcare providers

Many of these private entrepreneurs want to respond to the demand for quality services by investing in their businesses. But to grow and improve, they need access to capital — a challenge for many, but especially for female entrepreneurs, according to Arjan Poels, CEO of Medical Credit Fund (MCF).

‘’While African women are more likely to become entrepreneurs than men, they struggle to obtain loans — even more so than their male counterparts. Since women in Africa are less likely than men to own assets, many women-led businesses cannot access financing to reach their potential, including in healthcare,’’ he says.

ZamZam Medical Services

Digital loans overcome gender-related challenges

In response to the need for flexible working capital, Medical Credit Fund introduced a new category of loans: digital loans, for which female entrepreneurs can apply just as easily as men. Instead of traditional collateral, the healthcare provider’s history of mobile money receipts is used as the basis for the loan. The product, built on the advanced mobile money ecosystem in the region, now supports over 600 small and medium-sized health businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the past four years, the digital portfolio of Medical Credit Fund has grown exponentially. Currently, 97% of all loans are digital. Clients are said to appreciate the flexible repayment conditions, as well as the speed and ease of the process. Applying for loans at banks may require months — up to years — whereas, with the digital loans, entrepreneurs get access to capital within 48 hours.

Efficient financing solutions for private healthcare

With more than 50% of Africans using private health facilities — in some areas, it is all that is available — providing efficient financing solutions for the sector can be a game-changer. Medical Credit Fund’s digital loans have proven to be a sustainable model, supporting entrepreneurs of all genders to access finance, with fast and flexible loans. Next to loans, they also offer health entrepreneurs technical support and guidance to improve the quality of care they provide.

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