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Female healthcare entrepreneurs reflect on common opportunities; barriers to accessing financing

At a pioneering event titled “Empowering Female Healthcare Entrepreneurs”, a hundred female entrepreneurs gathered in Nairobi on 22 April to discuss crucial opportunities and barriers in accessing health financing.

  • Apr 23, 2024

Despite significant efforts to boost such financing, female entrepreneurs in particular encounter challenges to access adequate financing. For instance, a 2020 study on women’s entrepreneurship in Africa showed that only 34% of women in Africa engaged with the banking sector, as opposed to 47% of men. Moreover, loan amounts granted to women were on average 47% lower than those to men.

This can be attributed to several barriers, results from a new study make clear:

  • Lack of awareness,
  • Limited networks and access to information,
  • An inability to meet collateral and asset requirements.

Commissioned by the event organizers, the study is a further attempt by the Medical Credit Fund (MCF) to better serve the needs of female entrepreneurs.

At the event, successful female healthcare entrepreneurs shared their insights and experiences of navigating the complex landscape of health financing. The program allowed ample time for networking to enable attendees to exchange knowledge.

“When we were looking to buy land for our hospital, MCF came along – not just with a loan or money; they came up with solutions,” said Anne Waita, owner and CEO of Nairobi Radiotherapy and Cancer Center (NRCC). NRCC is one of the leading healthcare centers for comprehensive cancer treatment in Nairobi, providing integrative and personalized cancer care. “I look forward to continue working with MCF, not just for the money but for future experiences.”

To reduce some of the barriers women experience such as lack of collateral, MCF developed a digital loan product in 2017, MCF Cash Advance. Since then, the share of MCF loans disbursed to women has grown from 19% to almost 29% and keeps increasing. With this product, loan amounts also do not differ between men and women, unlike with term loans.

“We could be financiers, but you are the only one who knows where the shoe pinches,” said Kennedy Okongo, the MCF’s East Africa Director. “We offer blended financing that’s tied to quality improvement. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the life of the business.”

The event was made possible by the Swedish state’s development finance institution, Swedfund.

“When you look at the MCF and their products, they don’t say you are a woman and you don’t have collateral, so we are not going to speak with you. They have several products and services designed for everyone,” said Audrey Obara, Regional Director of Swedfund East Africa.

In addition to Swedfund, MCF is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Philips Foundation, FMO, British International Investment, and DFC.

Speaking at a breakfast event for female healthcare entrepreneurs in Nairobi is Stella Muraguri, Managing Partner at MMW Advocates. Listening to her are, from left to right: Audrey Obara, Regional Director for East Africa at Swedfund, Esther Muthoni, Director of ZamZam Medical services, Dr. Susan Murumba, Managing Director of Kory Family Hospital, and Elizabeth Wasunna, General Manager at AAR Healthcare.