GE’s Immelt Urges More Private Investment in Africa Health Care

General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt urged private investors to provide more funding for health care in African nations, where government-run services are overstretched.

Increased private investment will help improve the cost-effectiveness, quality and accessibility of health care on the continent, Immelt said at a briefing today in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Immelt was in the country for the signing of an agreement with Kenya Commercial Bank Ltd. and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which together with GE are backing a $10 million project in Kenya.

The project will provide funding to small- and medium-sized businesses to buy GE equipment for clinics and diagnostic centers, bringing health services “closer to the people,” Immelt said. The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company plans to replicate the project in other emerging markets, he said.

Health-care expenditure in Kenya grew faster than the overall economy in the first decade of this century, driven mainly by private sources, according to Open Capital Advisors, a Nairobi-based financial-services company. Government spending on health care accounts for only one-third of total health expenditure, down from 45 percent in 2000, according to its website. Private spending on health care is expected to total as much as $3.1 billion by 2025, Open Capital said in 2012.

Kenya’s government last week approved a plan to lease equipment for public hospitals and improve infrastructure under a public-private partnership model. The project will provide critical care services in a country that has only 64 public intensive-care unit beds, compared with a requirement of 670 beds, the cabinet said in a statement on Jan. 23.

The state program will run over 10 years and will also include upgrades to renal-care and cancer facilities, it said.

Immelt visited Ethiopia yesterday and plans to travel to Mozambique and Nigeria as part of a four-nation African tour. The Ethiopian government is discussing plans for GE to invest in power-generation projects, Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said yesterday after talks with Immelt.

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