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Sub-Saharan Africa

Providing affordable sight-saving surgery to thousands: Magrabi-ICO Cameroon Eye Institute

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Country: Cameroon

Sector: Healthcare

Challenge: Blindness is twice as common in Africa as it is worldwide. Although blindness caused by cataracts is often preventable, many people lack access to affordable cataract surgery.

Solution: In 2017, OPIC committed a $2 million loan to support a hospital in Cameroon that seeks to provide this simple, sight saving surgery to thousands of people. The loan was structured as a development impact loan that innovatively links the financial and social performance of the project so that OPIC achieves a higher return when the hospital reaches more patients.

Impact: The Magrabi Eye Institute is aiming to provide affordable cataract surgery to as many as 18,000 patients. OPIC’s development impact loan includes strong incentives for the project to meet its social impact goals and offers a promising model for accountability in impact investments.

An innovative approach to expanding access to healthcare in Africa
Of all the many intractable health problems in Africa, blindness is one that should be relatively easy to address. As in more developed countries, blindness in Africa is often caused by cataracts, which can be removed in a simple, inexpensive surgery. But too many people go without this quick, sight saving surgery. Blindness is twice as common in Africa as it is worldwide and 80 percent of the cases of blindness in Africa are treatable.

While donors and investors often support projects to expand access to healthcare in Africa, sustainable and scalable solutions require more than just money. In 2017 OPIC committed a $2 million loan to the Africa Eye Foundation to support a hospital in Cameroon that aims to prevent blindness in as many as 18,000 people. The project’s strong promise is rooted in its innovative structure as a development impact loan, a results-based contract in which OPIC and other investors provide upfront financing and are repaid by donors in amounts that will depend on the project’s success meeting financial as well as social goals.

OPIC is providing most of the upfront financing and its return will depend in part on how many people in Cameroon receive cataract surgery. The project has a diverse coalition of donors, also known as outcome funders, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Fred Hollows Foundation, and Sightsavers, an NGO focused on preventing avoidable blindness.

OPIC sees development impact loans and bonds as powerful tools to increase private sector investment in support of major development challenges.

This project was profiled in 2018