COTE D’IVOIRE – A US$300 million financing agreement has been signed between Cote D’Ivoire and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) to help medical clinics procure equipment from General Electric and Philips.

This investment could spur the cocoa-producing country’s development into a regional medical hub, Prime Minister Patrick Achi noted.

As in other African countries, many smaller clinics in Cote D’Ivoire struggle to obtain the bank loans necessary to buy or rent essential medical equipment.

This find from IFC aims to remedy that situation by providing credit to clinics hoping to get supplies from Philips and General Electric.

If we do not solve the problem of equipping our private clinics and hospitals, this goal of seeing the private (health) sector grow and create jobs will be a failure,” Achi said.

The program is part of the IFC’s Africa Medical Equipment Facility, which partners with African financial institutions and global medical supply firms to give local currency loans to small- and medium-sized clinics for equipment purchases.

Earlier in the month, IFC partnered with German, French, US DFIs to fund African vaccine production at Aspen Pharmacare, a South African pharmaceutical company.

The IFC’s investment in Aspen comes under its global health platform, which was launched in July 2020 to help developing countries fight the coronavirus pandemic and increase their healthcare systems’ resilience.

Including this new project, IFC has now committed US$1.82bn in Covid-19-related projects since March 2020, of which US$1.15mn has been directed specifically to supporting vaccines and related initiatives.

The agreement between IFC and Sierra Leone places Philips and General Electric as the only two companies from which Ivorian private and public medical facilities procure medical equipment.

Achi sees the agreement’s exclusivity clause as a reason for optimism. By limiting options to just two suppliers, Achi said that clinics will be able to secure their equipment at lower costs and with easier access to spare parts.

But the programme’s greatest impact will be on clinics seeking to grow into larger medical facilities, Achi said. If smaller institutions can finance their own expansions, so too can the country expand its regional medical footprint.

One of the strong axes of the project … is to ensure that Ivorians who have created clinics have the possibility of becoming hospitals and sub-regional hospitals, so that Cote D’Ivoire becomes a hospital destination – a medical hub,” Achi said.