The transition to digital payments in the healthcare industry in Sub-Saharan Africa
Developing countries especially, in Africa, are becoming more and more innovative when it comes to combining finance and technology to create digital financial solutions e.g. Mobile Money (MM). MM has been around for about 15 years and was first floated in Kenya but was used mostly for peer to peer transfers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, locally owned businesses throughout Africa have taken advantage of Digital Financial Services (DFS). Health managers have wondered whether digital payments would be the most efficient way to pay health workers in Sub-Saharan Africa and what benefits it would have, as well as any risks it would portray.
Africa accounted for 70% of the $1 trillion global mobile money value in June 2022. For example, big and small businesses in Kampala accept mobile money payments and people prefer to use mobile money in comparison to traveling with cash or withdrawing money from an ATM. Key organizations in the health sector such as WHO and USAID are noticing how widespread DFS are and are already taking advantage of them. Frontline workers have expressed that they prefer to receive their payments digitally.
Compelling Works has partnered with Makerere University and Kamuzu University of Health Sciences to undertake a study that aims to determine the effects of digital payments on financial inclusion, safety and security in Malawi. The study is part of the Digital Health Payment Initiative and Research in Africa Project (DHPI-R). It is being led by Makerere University School of Public Health. This study will focus on mobile money and bank cards as the method of payment. The study will be conducted using households survey and focus group discussions (FGDs). Frontline health workers and their households will be interviewed in the study.
The DHPI-R and members of the DHPI-R Community convened for a virtual live event as a way of drawing attention to digital payments in healthcare. The event happened on Friday, February 10 at 6:00 PM EAT. This event is a precursor to the dissemination events that will be conducted after the study in Malawi is concluded. The event was a webinar that aimed to better understand the experiences, opportunities, and challenges of paying campaign health workers during vaccination campaigns in Uganda and Malawi. The discussion involved multi-sectoral stakeholders engaged in improving health care and providing digital health financial services. There were experts from Ministries of Health, Ministries of Finance, telecommunication entities, health researchers, and healthcare workers. Managers from different levels of the health system shared the opportunities and challenges relating to use of digital payments. There is a general appreciation of faster processing of payments for health workers. The managers also noted challenges relating to charges incurred when health workers are withdrawing the money, the workload involved in processing digital payments, and health workers who may receive payment without necessarily working because of the pre-registration.
To contribute to this topic, you can join the Community of Practice via https://dhpir.mak.ac.ug/community-practice. This will help you to get access to the full range of content on the Digital Health Payments Initiative and Research (DHPI-R) including resources, news, latest research and other digital payments topics of discussion.
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