In addition to the Kenyan Ambassador H.E. Mrs. Rose Makena Muchiri , the panel consisted of Hans Docter (Director for Sustainable Development Ambassador Private Sector & Development Cooperation, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Patricia Vermeulen (CEO, Amref Flying Doctors) and Pieter Walhof (Director, PharmAccess). Alexander Kohnstamm (Director Advocacy, Joep Lange Institute) moderated the session.
After warming up the audience with a few poll questions on health and mobile penetration in Africa, Mr. Kohnstamm gave the floor to H.E. Mrs. Muchiri, who shared the challenges and opportunities in Kenya today in terms of healthcare and mobile technology. She explained that while significant progress has been made, there is also much work left to be done. “We need to expand our capacities in health and we need more facilities to train healthcare workers. Technology can play a big role.”
Ms. Vermeulen shared with the audience that Amref has long embraced e-learning as an important tool to empower community health workers. Especially in the most rural areas of the country, “working with technology is a necessity to reach health workers.” Amref and PharmAccess are also working together in Kenya through a complementary approach, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, around a mobile health wallet that combines knowledge, finance and quality improvement through the SafeCare standards. Vermeulen on this integrated approach: “We’re talking systems change.”
Mr. Kohnstamm asked the panel whether digitization is a matter of political will, to which Mr. Docter replied that Kenya has done a commendable job in creating an enabling environment for innovation. “Kenya is leading the continent with innovations to improve health systems,” he said. At the same time, he declared that in his view “the future is more private than public.” According to Docter, the private sector will lead the way on the road to more prosperity for all. “Mobile technology gives people more control over their destiny, and that for me is democratization.”
Continuing on this theme, Mr. Walhof shared the concept of the M-TIBA mobile health wallet, which allows people to send, save and receive funds for healthcare services. “In terms of healthcare, M-TIBA gives people an identity and the power to make their own health decisions.” M-TIBA, developed by PharmAccess with Carepay and Safaricom, is a closed loop where these conditional funds can only be used for healthcare costs at selected providers. Walhof went on to explain that “if you make health financing and delivery digital, liquidity of clinics and ability to invest in quality will increase,” thereby jumpstarting positive change in the healthcare sector in Africa.