Initiatives which broaden the supply of health and medical care in countries with low levels of provision, increase not only the accessibility for patients, but also the opportunities for specialist doctors to work in their homelands. Private healthcare providers such as AAR Healthcare (AAR) play a vital role.
During the past 30 years, AAR has become one of East Africa’s largest private healthcare providers with 35 modern clinics in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, 12 ambulances and a hospital in Uganda. Approximately 1,000 employees take care of the over 700,000 patients that visit AAR’s clinics each year. In 2013 Swedfund became a shareholder.
Together with her late husband, Bengt Beckmann, Maryjka Beckmann founded AAR Healthcare in 1984. Today she is no longer involved in the company’s operations, but remains a shareholder of AAR Holdings Limited.
“AAR started as a rescue company as with the growth of the Kenyan middle class and of the growing tourist sector there seemed to be a big demand for road and airambulance service. It very soon transpired that there was a major need in the health delivery sector and AAR developed into an HMO – a Health Maintenance Organisation”, Maryjka Beckmann tells.
A healthy working population stimulates economic growth, which was also one of the main drivers behind the inception of AAR. Seeing a doctor at one of the clinics may cost more than it would at a public facility, but the basic idea is to offer good quality medical care at a reasonable cost. Private sector investments in healthcare boost the quality and accessibility of healthcare services. As private players expand their size and scale of operations, efficiencies are realised which result in lower healthcare costs for end consumers. A well-regulated healthcare sector also ensures that quality care and drugs are available to all consumers.
A company at the leading edge
The challenges at the time AAR was established were any. Capital was hard to find, and lack of financial investment was a constant challenge. Who wanted to invest in Africa, a continent far from the priority of the investors they approached? And, on top of that, invest in a private health care business venture no one had ever heard of?
“Competition in the HMO sector began to appear by the beginning of 1990s, and the Government was getting interested. Preventive health care, which was part of our vision, had earlier been an unknown concept and new regulations had to be introduced. AAR was in the forefront of being involved in the initial new rules and regulations”, Maryjka Beckmann continues.
AAR has slowly but steadily expanded its healthcare clinics in the East African region and still upholds its original vision of providing a comprehensive health care value chain with a strong focus on clinical risk management and concentration on provision of preventive care.
“One of the major challenges for the continued development of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is working with the education sector, to improve basic health delivery at school level. The governments need help to implement their national school health policies, to improve participation and performance of the education sector and, thereby, ensure improved health of children, who are the future adults”, says Maryjka Beckmann.
Development Finance Institutions promote Efficiency and drive development
Dr. Frank Njenga is a professional psychiatrist, shareholder and the Chairman of AAR Group for the past ten years. He sees many advantages to the whole society when the private sector is actively involved and part of the solution in attaining sustainable development in Sub-Saharan countries.
“The private sector is more transparent and accountable than the public sector in the way it conducts its affairs. It has greater potential in dealing with endemic challenges such as corruption,” says Dr Njenga. “Development Finance Institutions such as Swedfund invest in institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa after careful due diligence and then only, in institutions deemed to have a direct and measurable impact on a number of development parameters. In this regard, this type of development finance is required more now than at any other time in the past”, says Dr Njenga.
Swedfund is a financial partner to AAR, as well as a partner in E&S-matters.
“Direct funding has been critical to the expansion of the business. The insistence of Swedfund that AAR remains focused on E&S matters has ensured that the business remains conscious of its responsibility in this region”, says Dr Njenga. Healthcare is central to development for all societies and requires large investments both in public and private healthcare to meet future challenges. Development financing working with private players can promote development by enhancing the quality of healthcare, offering qualified jobs and developing subcontractors.
Facts: AAR Healthcare
▼ AAR was founded by Bengt and Maryika Beckmann as the Africa Air Rescue Company in 1984.
▼ It started with both road and air ambulances.
▼ 700,000 patients
▼ 1,000 staff
▼ 35 clinics in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania
▼ 12 ambulances
▼ In 1996, AAR launched the Trees for Health (T4H) initiative, a school project on the theme "a healthy environment provides for healthy children, the future adults", to train children, the youth and the wider community to combat environmental degradation and facilitate improved health status among school children and the community.
SDGs in focus through our work
▼ SDG 3: Health and well-being.
▼ SDG 5: Gender equality. In particular, equal access to care.
▼ SDG 8: Decent working conditions and economic growth. Especially full and productive employment, as a result of good health.
▼ SDG 9: Sustainable industry, innovations and infrastructure. In particular, building resilient infrastructure, including hospitals and clinics.