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Afya Poa: Changing Minds, Saving Lives, Building Enterprise.

Monday, July 6, 2015
Maurice Kigada

In Kenya, insurance is often unavailable to those who need it most. However, it is the poor who often need insurance the most with few financial resources to fall back on. A single misfortune such as the death, disability, or even sickness of a breadwinner or any of his family members, can wipe out whatever little savings or capital they have worked so hard to accumulate, driving them and their families deeper into the poverty they seek to escape from. There is a great need to provide appropriate low cost insurance products that these people can easily access.

John Magambo, an MBA student taking the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise (GSSE) concentration in Kenya launched an “Insurance for All” scheme in spring 2014 to enable informal sector workers to purchase health insurance at affordable prices. The GSSE program is a collaboration between the United States International University in Nairobi and Colorado State University, an academic partner in the IDIN Consortium. This MBA program requires the students to start a social venture as part of the course work. That is what attracted John to take up the course. He had earlier identified the need for health insurance for the poor, but he needed to find a proper way of addressing this problem as he builds an enterprise around it. He joined the GSSE program with only an idea, but left with a fully functional business. The program greatly assisted him in developing a marketing plan, fine-tuning the product, and understanding the local business regulations. He is grateful for having gone through the program and often refers his friends to the class.

Traditionally, health insurance in East Africa remains a privilege of the wealthy class. Donor involvement has pushed insurance companies to offer “micro insurance,” but it is often not offered in a sustainable fashion. Insurance companies with micro insurance products require clients to pay a whole year in advance. Informal sector workers cannot afford a whole year’s worth of premiums upfront.

John, working with three other partners, created a partnership between a financial institution, medical service providers, an insurance agency, and the informal sector association to allow clients to pay premiums daily totaling roughly $0.40. Afya Poa has designed a unique micro-health insurance product and has partnerships that support it.

Insurance for All has stepped out to provide Afya Poa, an innovative health-financing product that will enable workers in the informal sectors to manage health-related risks. It makes available a financial platform that organizes their limited resources to ensure that they will always have access to quality healthcare whenever they need it. The target clientele is anyone working or running a business in the informal sectors (also known as jua kali).

Afya Poa has established Afya Community Network (ACN) which comprises clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies where the members will be able to access medical services. What’s more, when a member exceeds the medical insurance limit, there is an option to get an Afya emergency loan to directly settle the medical bills. Other than the fact that the members are allowed to pay daily premiums, these two features set it apart from all other medical insurance plans available in the country.

In an interview with John, he says, “One of the greatest challenges that we face is in our slogan: ‘Changing Minds.’ We have been working on the issue of changing the mindset of the people at the bottom of the pyramid.” He adds. “These people are conflicted between using the little money they have to take care of the daily needs – food, shelter and clothing, or saving for insurance. Also, the daily contribution of $0.40 may not be always accessible to all the workers in the informal sectors. They have some good days and bad days.”

However, the idea is gaining popularity. Last year they sold $80,000 in policy and this year already $60,000. This amount represents a total reach of 2,200 members so far.

They have also partnered with a local bank and developed a mobile wallet which they call Kash Poa. This is an efficient tool which allows the members to save their daily earnings and hence help them to make the daily payment for insurance should they have a bad day at work.

“We are working round the clock to come up with other products and services that will be complimentary to Afya Poa and that will help us push in more numbers and enroll more customers,” John says. “We want to change minds, save lives, and build an enterprise while we’re at it. This is the whole idea behind social entrepreneurship.”

Afya Poa provides insurance for the poor and the people in informal sectors. In May 2015, the product was officially launched in the Kenyan market though operations that started last year. Enrolling of members is done in the informal sectors and everyone is encouraged to enroll. Anyone working in the informal sector is eligible for membership with Afya Poa.

You can learn more about Afya Poa on the Insurance for All website.

Maurice Kigada currently works at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, and will be a student at the Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program in Fall 2015.