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IFC supports local production of vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases. Photo: Shutterstock

After two very difficult years of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers and the private sector are working to rebuild human capital and strengthen healthcare systems for extraordinary and for routine needs.  Creating resilient health systems that can manage during crises and making sure that people have access to affordable care, requires a multi-faceted approach. At IFC, where our mission is to develop healthcare markets in underserved, developing communities, we have sought to support local and regional health players that can make an impact on healthcare, whether through service delivery or products.

With the pandemic triggering a spike in demand for vaccines and therapeutics, we have focused on expanding vaccine availability, and building domestic capacity in Africa.  IFC has been working closely with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal, which is seeking to produce vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases, and we recently announced a partnership with Fidson Healthcare in Nigeria to explore developing pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing. At the same time, we are collaborating with BioNTech and the kENUP Foundation to pioneer a novel approach of designing and manufacturing turnkey containerized plants in Africa to enable scaling up of production of mRNA vaccines. Jointly with our colleagues from the World Bank’s IBRD/IDA teams, we are planning to address potential barriers for private investment in the health sector and help countries to become more attractive as hosts for vaccine manufacturing projects.

Emerging pharma hubs in Latin America

While we have made Africa a priority, we are looking to support domestic and regional pharma production wherever needed. In Latin America, some recent investments reflect the importance of major regional pharmaceutical players and could serve as lessons for companies elsewhere. Last year, IFC provided a $30 million loan package to Mexico-based Neolpharma Group, which was the subject of one of our recent case studies. The loan, part of which was made up of a $15 million concessional financing from the Canada-IFC Blended Climate Finance Program, will help the company expand much-needed products for chronic diabetes and other diseases afflicting the region’s aging population. Another new IFC client, Roemmers Group, made the transition from a family business to a large pharmaceutical group by specializing in producing affordably priced generics, as explored in another case study. In both cases, company executives cite agility and flexibility as traits that helped them successfully anticipate and meet market demands.

We are committed to improving access to quality care, and that’s why we were so excited to invest in India-based MedGenome, which works on DNA sequencing of human genomes from underrepresented ethnic groups in order to expand creation of medical treatments that are tailored to people’s specific genetics profiles. MedGenome’s CEO Dr. Vedam Ramprasad explained what the company is doing in a recent interview for our IFC Health newsletter.

Social bonds breakthrough in Asia

It’s this drive for quality care that also sparked our use of a social bond to make a $100 million investment in Ayala Corporation, a Philippines-based holding company that includes primary care clinics and retail pharmacies. The bond’s proceeds will fund a new center in Manila for treating cancer, the third leading cause of death in the Philippines. Social bonds tie the use of proceeds to projects that aim to achieve positive social outcomes in everything from health and education to gender, affordable housing, and food security.

Ultimately, successful healthcare means that clinics uphold ethical principles for behavior, ensuring that everyone truly has access to quality care. The Ethical Principles in Health Care, or EPiHC, a set of ten principles we developed with the World Bank, has seen a surge in interest over the past year. The number of organizations signing up has tripled since 2019 to nearly 200 signatories who together manage over 5,600 facilities in more than 90 countries. The relevance of EPiHC and how companies are using it to manage ethical concerns is highlighted in our profile series.

While we have been unable to hold our biannual health conference in person since 2019, we are continuing conversations on emerging market healthcare virtually. Last fall, we launched a series of webisodes where we interview global thought leaders on a range of health services topics relevant to successful care.

Throughout, while the portfolio may be constantly changing, our mission has not. We continue to leverage the private sector in a way that improves access to affordable healthcare in developing markets that need it most.  There is much, much more to be done.

[“source=worldbank”]