Kenyan-based Equity Bank says it is interested in exploring investment opportunities within the country’s health sector, as it seeks to exploit increasing demand for healthcare in the country. The bank intends to open a chain of clinics across the East African country under the name ‘Equity Afia’.

The new business will operate as a franchised network under the social arm of the bank, Equity Group Foundation (EGF). It will offer “affordable and high quality” healthcare, the lender says.

“EGF, a non-profit-making operating foundation registered in Kenya, plans to execute a sustainable, integrated health model that uses a franchise approach to provide standardised, quality health care,” Business Daily quoted the bank as having said in a notice.

To set up and run its chain of clinics, Equity Bank has started recruiting health professionals. Advertisements have been placed for the post of a chief nursing officer, chief laboratory technologist, finance manager and an IT manager.

Millions of Kenyans cannot afford to pay for health services at public or private clinics. Although health insurance has been available since 1966, only 20 percent of Kenyans have access to some sort of medical coverage, the World Bank noted in an article on Kenya’s Health Insurance Subsidy Program (HISP) supported by the lender.

While the HISP initiative is extending financial risk protection to Kenya’s poorest, Equity Bank’s entry into the healthcare business is expected to further extend affordable healthcare to Kenyans. The lender is also expected to provide medical cover packages acceptable at the Equity Afia clinics.

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