The dilemma of successful entrepreneurship involves the macro-economic, political and social climate of a country and whether these actually lend themselves to a culture of enterprise development. Read more









One of the few shortcomings I’ve found in the social venture capital approach is its heavy dependence on a steady stream of entrepreneurs who are interested in serving our target market of low-income consumers.  But we are not in search of just any entrepreneur.  Read more

In our class on operations management we learned about the perils of long queues in a service-oriented business and strategies to eliminate waiting time, such as reducing service time and establishing pooling efficiencies. Read more

I just returned from a field research visit to Kenya’s Coast province. The hub of the province, the town of Mombasa, is a renowned tourist mecca and jumping off point for some of the most stunning beaches East Africa has to offer.

But outside downtown Mombasa, poverty is conspicuous and sprawling. I was visiting retail pharmacy chains, large hospitals, NGOs and small-scale providers and learning about the differences in the health needs of the population there compared with inland areas.

Traditional healers on the roadside

Traditional healers on the roadside

One unique and distinct barrier to accessing formal health services among the population in the Coast is an entrenched traditional belief system. For example, many low-income patients will consult a muganga, or witch doctor, as a first-line of defence when they are sick. The alleged medicinal concoctions offered by these mugangas are mostly bogus mixtures of powders and herbs that are typically useless and sometimes harmful. On top of that, the muganga will demand payment with the threat of a curse. Families have been known to sell their goats – prized assets – to pay muganga fees. Worse, some expectant mothers believe that their baby will be still-born if they do not consult a muganga during pregnancy.

A local doctor and I lamented that these practices continue to have a detrimental effect not only on his business, but more importantly on the population’s health. If an individual is truly sick, mugangas will only serve to delay seeking effective treatment and could lead to complications. Further, muganga fees may send a family even further into poverty and leave them unable to seek additional treatment. Read more

Market research in the traditional business setting is a breeze. Purchase some Nielsen or Forrester reports, run some customer focus groups, analyse your competitors’ financial statements, mine some retail data – and you’ve got the general patterns and trends you need to make a solid strategic business decision.

Much of my work in Kenya has focused on understanding the market and the needs related to maternity health and determining how to establish a sustainable model to provide quality health services to low-income women before, during and after labour. But where to begin? We have no market research reports. There are no systems to capture consumer data.

Reading scholarly journals and World Health Organisation white papers will only get me so far (really not very far at all). In order to understand the health marketplace for poor consumers, I must see it with my own eyes, hear it with my own ears and speak directly to as many patients and doctors in low-income neighbourhoods as I possibly can. I call this 3-dimensional market research (3DMR). Read more

I always find it fascinating to compare issues facing health systems in countries in different geographies with drastically different socio-economic characteristics and needs. The problems and potential solutions are often more similar than one would expect…

In the US healthcare reform debate, the issue of incentives for doctors has been a critical focal point. The US health insurance system relies heavily on a fee-for-service model, which tends to result in higher overall costs stemming from increased administrative costs and higher incomes for doctors. Read more

Greetings readers and to my fellow MBA bloggers!

It has been a little over a month since I touched down in Nairobi, but in terms of knowledge and experience accumulated, it feels like eons. I’ve had the privilege of working with Acumen Fund, a global social venture fund dedicated to providing critical goods and services to the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), people earning under $4 per day. My focus this summer is on healthcare systems in East Africa, specifically mapping out the ecosystem for healthcare products and services and assisting with due diligence on pipeline investments with the potential to improve the health and well-being of low-income patients. Read more