What about the healthcare systems – given that the virus hasn’t spread very extensively in the developing world as of yet, should investments into healthcare be a priority at all?
It is certainly a priority, a huge priority, and becoming even more of a priority. Healthcare systems are underdeveloped in the developing world at all levels. And it starts with testing facilities.
One of the reasons why there are not so many cases recorded in the developing world is that people are simply not tested in the way they are tested in Europe. So the support from development institutions like ours starts with getting the relevant diagnostics systems in place. Here the EIB is doing a lot. We are working on a project together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, under the External Investment Plan of the European Commission that aims at improving diagnostic services and laboratory services, through public-private partnerships in the developing world. We have accelerated the roll-out of this program due to the crisis, because if people don’t get tested they don’t get treated. So investing in and supporting the diagnostic system of the healthcare system of the country is very important and a priority for the EIB.
We also observe that health in Africa is really a luxury good. Only the wealthy part of the population has access to medical treatment as we know it here in Europe, and the poor part of the population is left out. So one of the challenges is to make sure that also the poor part of the population gets the access to medical treatment and medical services they deserve. And the EIB in its response in the current crisis—but also in the long run—is very much focusing on making sure that health for all, access to treatment for all, will be addressed in these countries.
Are there other areas beyond testing and diagnostics that we’re paying specific attention to?
Sure. The magic word here is the closed loop. The closed loop includes the cycle from testing to treatment and the follow-up with the patient, once they are hopefully safely treated. The EIB is financing that at all levels. At all levels, huge investments are required in the developing world.
One thing that is important in development finance is that you never go alone. You team up with partners at all levels, and the EIB is teaming up with financial players, be it the World Bank, be it KfW, be it the Agence française de développement. And in the current crisis we work very much also with UN agencies. Amongst them is the World Health Organization.
The EIB is signing a memorandum of understanding with the WHO that addresses various topics in the developing world, but it also looks at how we can best provide the answer to the current crisis. We are very much looking forward to implementing this collaboration and to working together on the ground with their technical expertise and our financing expertise in order to deliver the response to the urgent and the most burning problems that these countries are currently facing.
You said in the beginning that, in the long run, development finance priorities will not change. What are the long-term development finance priorities that continue to be important to us, despite the crisis?
I don’t expect development finance to change in the long run, because the fundamental needs that bring us all there to provide for the developing world will not change. People need access to energy, they need access to water. They need liquidity to run their business, they need infrastructure that is reliable and functioning. And the traditional contribution from development institutions like the EIB is to make sure that there is enough funding. Be it for the roads, be it for energy, where we are now very much supporting the renewables sector, be it for access to water, and now more and more also for digitalization. These needs will still be there, so I say that once we have taken care of the response to the crisis, they will need to be addressed. And the EIB will be there to play its part in financing them.
Read Does This Change Everything? from the European Investment Bank, the EU bank. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Acast, PlayerFM and Spotify