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CHESTRAD advocates blended financing for women, children empowerment in Africa

As the plunge private sector financing worsened due to the impact of COVID, the Centre for Health Sciences Training, Research, and Development (CHESTRAD), has advocated a blend of public and private as well as donor financing, as a sustainable model as it seeks to drive financial inclusion as well as deliver quality healthcare and educational services to women, girls and children who are the vulnerable members of the society.

No fewer than $700 billion in private capital has left the shores of emerging and developing economies, worsened by the pandemic, and making it increasingly difficult for countries to meet up with sustainable development goals of bridging gender equality.

In a webinar, where it hosted international and domestic experts with the theme ‘From Aid to Trade: Transformation of African Financing for Children, Girls, and Women,” Lola Dara, founder of CHESTRAD, called for blended financing, noting that a drop has been in Official Development Assistant (ODA) in the form of grants, into the country.

“There has also been increased hesitancy from people giving money as they ask for local accountability. Irrespective, we have a responsibility to chart a new development for Africa especially for women, children, and girls whose agenda remains unfinished,” she said.

CHESTRAD, which recently launched a product known as “Tariro”, is looking to provide financial, health, and educational services to 500,000 women and girl children, living in urban slums, in Nigeria.

It will also provide 2 million children within the ages of (0-60 months) with access to qualitative services in health nutrition and early learning and hopes to pool resources from various sources to achieve this aim.

Monique Vledder, practice manager, Global Financing Facility (GFF), who noted that blended financing was important, said opportunities exist at the global level for women and children’s health agenda.

According to her, investors are keen on good businesses that have a social impact. This she said was evident in a GFF partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) that saw the floating of a $2 billion sustainable development bond for women and children’s health, gaining the interest of investors.

“It is not always that private sector investments have the same equity collectively. So by blending grant financing and private sector financing we (GFF) have been able to focus more on those marginalised populations that have been left behind to ensure that there is quality health care.”

She called on the need for increased private sector engagement for the improvement of quality health services from the supply side while also at the same time, thinking of financial solutions to ensure that women who have a hard time paying for health care could be helped and the financial burden lifted so they become poorer due to health care expenditure.

While blended financing is one of the ways to ensure sustainable financing for women and children, Olukayode Pitan, Managing Director of Bank of Industry, Nigeria, noted that the country’s spiralling inflation has made it difficult for private sector players to deliver health care services affordably, since they borrow at a higher amount within the range of 16-25 percent.

He proposed tax rebates to encourage corporate firms to look at some aspects of healthcare they can support, cheap financing as well as partnerships with religious leaders and communities, as some of the veritable options to solving the country’s health crisis.

For Caroline Anstey, CEO, PACT, a non-profit international development organisation, investors are looking for projects that would yield returns while still making a social impact.

She urged organisations to come up with projects that are bankable noting that there is a huge disconnect between those who have the money and those who conceived the project.

“A lot is going on in the environmental space. There’s quite a lot going on in the governance space, there’s very little going on in the social space, and most people in private, with private finance, are now looking for exciting social projects, often focused on gender. We already see gender tagging. We have to diversify our offerings and look at that issue of blended finance around public, private.” she said.

The General Manager Lagos State Health Management Agency Emmanuella Zamba advised that it is very critical to look at ways the financial inclusion can penetrate the informal sector which is what the government is doing with Tariro.

According to her, the informal sector in Nigeria remains a myth as nobody can say what segment of the population comprises it, and probably, draft out strategies to address the various segments therein.

Senior Vice-president Health, Rockefeller Foundation, Naveen Rao noted that there is a need to bring women to the 21st century in health, tech, and data both as recipients and providers.

“Those who have access to data will have better health than those who do not,” he said, noting that if Africa doesn’t bridge this gap, its health and equity will suffer.

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