By Ange Aboa
ABIDJAN (Reuters) – A World Bank programme to help medical clinics in Ivory Coast procure equipment from General Electric (NYSE:) and Philips could spur the cocoa-producing country’s development into a regional medical hub, Prime Minister Patrick Achi said on Sunday.
As in other African countries, many smaller clinics in Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, struggle to obtain the bank loans necessary to buy or rent essential medical equipment.
A $300 million financing agreement signed on Friday by Ivory Coast and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (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 told Reuters.
The programme 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.
As part of the agreement, Philips and General Electric will become the only two companies from which Ivorian private and public medical facilities procure medical equipment, Achi said.
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 Ivory Coast becomes a hospital destination – a medical hub,” Achi said.
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