African private safety nets

Here is an encouraging development from Africa:

In most of Africa, there is no such help for informal workers like Ms. Sow, who sells ndambe, a hearty bean paste that she mixes with tomatoes and onions and slathers on bread. Across the continent, fewer than 10 percent of working people have health insurance, pension coverage or other forms of social security, according to the International Labor Organization, the United Nations’ oldest specialized agency.

But that is slowly changing, and not just because some African governments are expanding their ailing social security systems, vestiges of the colonial days and geared mostly to the vast number of people on the government payroll.

The bigger push is coming from everyday Africans who are tired of waiting for politicians to address their needs and have begun spinning their own safety nets.

Plans in which neighbors come together and create their own makeshift health coverage are the rage in Africa, particularly in the continent’s west. Here, the plans now have a significant presence in 11 countries and membership has grown beyond 200,000 people.

Some of these mutual health organizations, as they are known, include fewer than 100 beneficiaries. The tiny group negotiates with a local clinic and forges a better price for care. Others have linked dozens of community groups to produce sophisticated plans that cover 10,000 or more people and offer an array of services.

"Every day there’s a new group," said Olivier Louis Dit Guerin, who helps set up these microinsurance plans as part of a program run by the Labor Organization. "They’re growing and growing to fill the big gap."

Here is the story.


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