Markets, Aid, and Global Health

by Anjali Sastry on April 7, 2009

Several themes came up again and again in the course of our class over the past half-year. One core question: can markets help to deliver health care efficiently in resource-limited settings? Students wanted to find every clever business model that offered us an example, or even just an inspiration, for how enterprises might use markets to enable their delivery of health care in, say, Zambia or Sierra Leone. We examined Aravind Eye Clinic (India), we looked at CFWShops (Kenya and Rwanda), and we considered what we had learned from our dozen partner organizations in six sub-Saharan African nations. We talked about funders, too: how did we see them helping the organizations we worked so closely with? How did funding requirements stifle needed changes? Could other sources of funding besides governments, agencies, and philanthropies play developmental roles for global health organizations? Was aid helping the patients and health care providers that we learned about in class and firsthand? Students in the class had mixed opinions, pointing out that organizations that were effective in getting donor money could enjoy increasing funding, status, and resources, while other organizations languished, lacking basic funding to carry out their stated missions. Was this good or bad? we debated.

Turns out these questions are very much in the air today. I heard Dambisa Moyo on the radio this morning arguing that aid has not helped: here’s her On Point appearance and a recent piece in Fast Company.  I found myself wondering what Moyo would say to Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund and author of a new book, The Blue Sweater. The Meridian Medical team of students met her and the rest of the Acumen board in Nairobi earlier this year, and if you are at MIT, you have a chance to hear from her on Thursday, 9 April at noon in the Student Center.

Well, Charlie Rose had the same idea as I had and juxtaposed these two thinkers in a recent episode of his TV show:

Novogratz on Charlie Rose 25 March 09

Moyo on Charlie Rose 25 March 09

Do you agree with Moyo, that we need to move away from a stance that encourages the West to pity Africa? With Novogratz’ call for patient capital?

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