By Kelvin Gilbert |
As part of its policy measures in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria and, in furtherance of its objective to provide a credit facility for the healthcare industry, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the watch of the Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, infused the sum of N100 billion Credit Support for the Healthcare sector. This CBN Credit support for the Healthcare sector is an on-lending intervention scheme for the sector developed as part of the pro-active measures to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The initiative was developed to provide funding to indigenous pharmaceutical companies and other organizations in the healthcare value chain to enable them increase capacity to meet the increasing demand for healthcare arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
It was intended to reduce health tourism in order to conserve foreign exchange; provide long-term low cost finance for healthcare infrastructure development that would lead to the evolvement of world-class healthcare facilities in the country; improve access to affordable credit by indigenous pharmaceutical companies in order to expand their operations, and support the provision of shared services through one-stop healthcare solutions to enhance competition and reduce the cost of healthcare delivery in the country.
The objectives of the CBN’s intervention are hinged on a felt need to reduce the tendency on the part of Nigerians to seek medical help abroad in what is euphemistically known as medical tourism, a habit that had become a scourge on the nation’s effort to conserve foreign exchange.
This initiative provides long-term, low cost finance to facilitate the development of the Nigerian healthcare sector. It will improve access to affordable credit for indigenous pharmaceutical companies for expansion and to encourage compliance with the WHO Good Manufacturing Practice.
This money also covers the manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment, the establishment/ expansion/ upgrade of basic and specialised healthcare facilities, the provision of medical/ pharmaceutical supplies, the support of medical/pharmaceutical research and development (R&D), the distribution of medical/pharmaceutical drugs and supplies, the manufacture of medical/pharmaceutical drugs distribution technology and any other healthcare value chain activity as may be prescribed by the CBN from time to time.
The Scheme which is to be funded by the Real Sector Support Facility-Differentiated Cash Reserves Requirement (RSSF-DCRR) of the CBN, and disbursements are made by Participating Financial Institutions (PFI’s). The eligible financial institutions are Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)
Also a body of experts was established by the Bank to review and evaluate submitted research proposals and provide recommendations for financing the identified research and development proposals.
Already, 20 projects valued at N26.278 Billion had been funded under the N100 billion credit support intervention for the healthcare industry, just as the CBN HSRDIS was designed to increase Nigeria’s research and development activities to support the development of validated Nigeria-made vaccines, drugs and herbal medicines. The major objective for the Bank was also to reduce dependence on imported drug products (synthetic and herbal) and vaccines for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in Nigeria.
To achieve this CBN made it a policy to focus its attention on research projects with high potential to contribute to the development of the Nigerian vaccines that will help curb the spread infectious diseases.
Furthermore the CBN provided grants to biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies, institutions, researchers, and research institutes, to boost domestic capacity to curb the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable or non-communicable diseases.
This is part of efforts to support capacity of relevant health agencies towards attaining World Health Organisation (WHO) Maturity Level 3 prerequisite for manufacturing of vaccines in Nigeria. Similarly, the bank is facilitating partnership between academia (researchers, research institutes and universities) and industry to research and develop drugs, phytomedicines and vaccines for the control, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in Nigeria
Also, it is intended to provide long-term, low cost finances for healthcare infrastructure development that would lead to the evolvement of world class healthcare facilities in the country.
That the interest rate on this facility is within a single digit range of not less than five per cent and not more than nine per cent, is a clear indication that it will catalyze and improve access to affordable credit by indigenous pharmaceutical companies to expand their operations and comply with the World Health Organization’s Good Manufacturing Practices (WHO GMP).
Similarly, it is the intendment of the apex bank to use the facility to support the provision of shared services through one-stop healthcare solution to enhance competition and reduce the cost of healthcare delivery in the country.
It is also noteworthy that the apex bank is out to encourage greater research and development in Nigeria of drugs and vaccines that would help prevent the spread of the virus. There is already a framework in progress under which grants and long term facilities will be provided to researchers, science institutions and biotechnology firms to develop the Nigerian Vaccine.
An expert in Pharmacy recently confirmed that some pharmaceutical companies have actually accessed this facility which will enhance the research component of their operations. It is after successes are recorded and validated by the Health Authorities through clinical trials that the CBN will step in and do the needful as part of this whole package aimed at safeguarding the nation and her citizens from the rampaging pandemic.
In the opinion of this expert, that is the good way to go if the nation must play its role within the global plan to contain COVID-19 and side-step past mistakes in the management of such facilities put in place to tackle emergent health challenges.
What is comforting is the CBN’s appreciation of the enormity of the problem at hand which has made it aware of the pertinence of involving other interest groups. Without being prodded, it understood that it may not be able to actualize the laudable objective on its own. That may have influenced its decision to bring on board private sector players under a coalition against the pandemic. As proved by what is already on ground, the resources put together by the coalition is actually being deployed to mobilizing even further private sector thought leadership which aims at raising public awareness and buy-in for COVID-19 prevention while at the same time providing direct support to strengthen the healthcare sector’s capacity to respond to the crisis.
In the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), there is emerging evidence that the private sector, driven by the CBN, has been able to procure needed Isolation centres, medical equipment and has provided hospital beds across the country which will serve as a significant boost towards the efforts at containing the spread of COVID-19.
Gilbert, a journalist and Public affairs analyst lives in Garki Abuja