With over 90% of Zambia’s population not on any form of health Insurance cover, there is need for mobile service providers (i.e. MTN, Airtel and Cell Z) to replicate what Kenya is doing with their M-TIBA service in providing “Health care” for the majority poor through a “mobile wallet” which rides on M-PESA a mobile money service provider in Kenya.
According to their webpage, M-TIBA, a “health wallet” on the mobile phone, allows users to set funds aside for healthcare, thereby improving their financial capability to access health services. In simpler terms, M-TIBA is a service on a mobile phone that allows anyone to send, save and spend funds specifically for healthcare at a minimal cost provided they are subscribers of M-PESA and also subscribe to M-TIBA. As such, money stored in M-TIBA can only be used to pay for treatment and medication at any registered clinics and hospitals that have partnered with M-PESA.
With this opportunity, mobile service providers in conjunction with the Ministry of Health can partner with insurance companies to develop a similar product and make health insurance more affordable to the average Zambian. . This type of service can help millions of people that self-medicate, or wait till their illness is almost unbearable (because of lack of savings or affordable health cover) before they seek medical help.
Mobile service provides can benefit from the economies of scale while helping many Zambians obtain health care, seeing as a good number of Zambians own a mobile phone. This can be done by having subscribers save a very minimal charge per month from their airtime top up which can be put towards their “Health mobile wallet.” In turn, funds stored in this type of “Mobile wallet” can be managed by an insurance company.
This would enhance digital financial inclusion in line with the newly launched, Government of Zambia National Financial Inclusion Strategy, one of which is to increase financial inclusion (Formal and informal) from 59% to 80% by 2022.
According to the Minister of finance Felix Mutati, “Enhancing the financial sector will allow Zambians to reap the full benefit of financial inclusion, It will enable individuals to use the right financial service to make plans and manage risk, and it will help firms gain access to affordable financing to help them facilitate innovation and growth, and create employment”. Therefore, there is an opportunity for mobile service providers and insurers not only to provide access to a financial service but also grow their businesses.