Kenya’s leading mobile operator Safaricom has launched a new health payment platform that will enable users to save and pay for healthcare using their phones.

The service, dubbed M-Tiba, will allow users to deposit funds into a dedicated ‘health wallet’ on M-Pesa. These funds can only be used to pay for healthcare at selected providers who are part of a nationwide M-Tiba network.

M-Tiba was mentioned in Safaricom’s 2014 Social Innovation Agenda [PDF], and a pilot project was launched in January 2015 involving 10,000 beneficiaries in 44 clinics. The wallet allows users to track and monitor the use of their funds.

M-Tiba was launched in partnership with PharmAccess Foundation, a Netherlands-based non-profit organization working to improve access to quality healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, and CarePay, a Kenyan payment platform that enables users to save and pay for healthcare.

“We are extending the capability of the mobile phone to make a tangible difference in the way healthcare is delivered in Kenya, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said at the launch. “M-Tiba will allow services to reach previously inaccessible areas to transform the way healthcare is delivered.”

The first donor partner to use the M-Tiba platform is The Pfizer Foundation, who are pioneering the the service in low income areas.

“More such solutions will be developed with public and private partners. In future, M-Tiba can include public and private health insurers as well, offering micro-insurance products through M-Tiba against very low costs to low-and middle-income groups that couldn’t be reached before,” said Millicent Olulo, Country Director for PharmAccess.

M-Tiba is Safaricom’s third dedicated mobile healthcare product. The other two are Linda Jamii, a micro-insurance product, and Sema Doc, a subscription service that offers consultation and health tips via SMS.

Safaricom is the biggest communication company in East and Central Africa, providing voice, data, financial services and enterprise solutions for a range of subscribers, small businesses and government using a variety of platforms.

Eric Mugendi Author

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