ClinicPesa from Uganda, for example, provides savings and insurance options based on micro transactions, which involve customers transferring small amounts of money to their account when they can afford to do so. The funds, which are transferred using SMS (USSD code), WhatsApp, Telegram, the Facebook web app or ClinicPesa’s homepage, build a small pot of savings that can be used to access basic healthcare when needed. When the savings go unused due to good health, the account pays out bonuses that accumulate over time. In addition, account holders’ funds can be used to offset medical bills and pay for medicines when needed at any registered clinic, hospital or pharmacy. In a new development, ClinicPesa has recently begun encouraging small businesses to set aside funds for their employees using the same micro-saving/insurance model.
Millions of people in East Africa lack affordable health insurance and therefore lack access to health care. This issue is compounded by the fact that most health care systems and insurance schemes concentrate on urban areas and omit peri-urban and rural areas. The fact that East Africans frequently use mobile phones to make small financial transactions does, however, open up opportunities for enrolling people on low incomes and from rural areas in micro health-care systems.
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Photo: Pierre Holtz for UNICEF (www.hdptcar.net)