Local Healthcare Needs Diaspora Cash Injection

The recently ended Nation Hela Diaspora Conference sought to bring Kenyans living abroad together. It was also an opportunity for local businesses to strategize on how to get a piece of the diaspora pie.

A deserted ward at the Kiambu District Hospital following a recent health workers strike. Kenyan medical practitioners abroad could offer valuable input to local enterprises. FILE

A deserted ward at the Kiambu District Hospital following a recent health workers strike. Kenyan medical practitioners abroad could offer valuable input to local enterprises. FILE

CBK Statistics for 2013 indicate remittance estimates were about $1.26 billion. This only captures official money transfer data, excluding informal cash sending and money exchange means.

Figures on the investment destination of these funds are not factually available. However, judging from interactions with a small section of the diaspora, real estate, education and medical bills for family members are some of the uses.

For those of us in healthcare the question is how do we get some of these diaspora dollars?

Though there are no real records showing what sectors those in the diaspora are engaged in, there is a probability that a significant number are in healthcare.

Though doctors and senior health cadres are few, nurses and auxiliary health workers have a significant representation in this population. For this reason perhaps they may be wooed to align their investments with their fields of work.

My observation in the diaspora healthcare sector suggests two types of potential investors: those sending cash occasionally. usually in their early working life and those who have been working for decades.

Increasingly the numbers of the latter group returning home or thinking about relocating is rising. This group is perhaps what health entrepreneurs should “stalk” as they have relatively more capital to invest.

Since many of them have acquired critical skills, high levels of professionalism and other aspects of good work ethics not readily espoused by local healthcare businesses, they offer valuable input to local enterprises.

Sadly, however, only a few of the diaspora invest in healthcare. To highlight this, a few weeks ago I attended the launch of an entertainment spot opened by such a member who coincidentally was in the healthcare field.

Such investment decision may have been rightly made for quick returns, but their longevity and benefits to society is perhaps what is lacking. So what discourages the diaspora from investing in healthcare?

A challenge for most is that information on healthcare investment opportunities is scarce. This is a “patience investment” that may sometimes require hands-on involvement.

But many are also unwilling to fully return home. For this group, piecemeal investment before the final return on accumulating sufficient wealth is preferred.

Big projects may appeal more to those returning home permanently. Still finding the right enterprise or mode of partnership and team to invest in allows “silent investors” to also participate for those making piecemeal investments.

Unfortunately even for this conference, little or no interaction occurred between health entrepreneurs and the diaspora. As health enterprises, we should be more aggressive in jostling for space in such events as they are potential capital and partnership making opportunities.

The good news is that those ultimately returning home have higher training levels and skills. For the doctors in particular, blossoming practices in rare specialties are good indicators. However more need to come up in the counties.

Good returns are made when great ideas and capital meet.

Feedback: info@healthinfo.co.ke; Twitter:@edwardomete

– Business Daily