Grameen Foundation, MicroEnsure, Penda Health and Clifford Chance Launch New Health Insurance Initiative for Low-Income Kenyans


Washington, D.C. and Nairobi, Kenya, Oct 6, 2014 – Grameen Foundation, MicroEnsure, and Penda Health today launched a new initiative to a provide low-cost health insurance and health information to low-income Kenyans.  The initiative, called the “Uzima Project”, will focus on providing low-income people access to high quality health services and financing, along with a messaging and reminders service that encourages users to adopt healthy habits and practices.  It will be one of the first projects to develop an integrated package that provides low-cost healthcare financing and targeted health communications via mobile phones.

In Kenya, health insurance is mandatory for salaried workers and voluntary for others through the country’s National Hospital Insurance Fund.  Nearly 75 percent of Kenyans are uninsured and must pay for health services themselves. A 2012 study by BMC Health Service Research found that the burden of out-of-pocket healthcare costs was highest among the poorest households, which spend a third of their budget on medical needs, compared to only 8% among the richest households. In addition, insurance for the low-income market typically only covers hospitalization costs. This limited access to comprehensive, affordable health insurance leaves low-income Kenyans highly vulnerable to the financial shocks associated with prolonged illnesses and accidents. 

“Without affordable healthcare, millions of low-income Kenyans cannot access routine services and they also run the risk of minor health issues turning into catastrophes that send them deeper into poverty.  Through this collaboration with MicroEnsure, Penda Health and the global law firm Clifford Chance, we will develop a model for addressing this crisis and opportunity by enabling low-income households to take charge of their health care more than they have ever been able to do before,” said Alex Counts, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation. 

The project is part of Grameen Foundation’s broader focus on integrating affordable health care and financial services through innovative uses of information technology.

Grameen Foundation, Penda Health and MicroEnsure will conduct user testing and research on a health financing solution that will be piloted through Penda Health’s medical centers in and around Nairobi. Penda Health, using Grameen Foundation’s human-centered design approach, will lead the creation of the healthy lifestyle messages that will be delivered to mobile phones via MOTECH, an open-source technology platform developed by Grameen Foundation. Health care workers will also receive reminders about patients’ schedules to help them better manage their caseloads. Clifford Chance is providing financial support and pro bono assistance. 

Peter Gross, Regional Director of MicroEnsure Africa, commented on the launch, “MicroEnsure exists to help the mass market address risk, and while health is at the top of the list, health insurance has the lowest penetration of any insurance product in Africa.  Through the Uzima project, we will invent new ways of addressing health risk, and roll out the solutions at scale.  We are proud to partner with Penda Health, Grameen Foundation and Clifford Chance to break new ground in this important area.”

“One of patients’ biggest challenges in accessing healthcare is that they often don’t have cash when they fall ill. There is even a saying in Kiswahili that says sickness comes when your pockets are empty,” said Stephanie Koczela, Penda’s Cofounder and Managing Director. “The Uzima project will design a solution that allows Kenyan families to access quality care when they need it and will educate and encourage them to be proactive with their health. We couldn’t be more excited to have great partners as we embark on tackling this problem.”  

The Uzima project plans to reach 150,000 people with health insurance and information by the end of its second year and will serve as a model for expanding the initiative to other markets and influencing other health care initiatives globally.  

About Grameen Foundation
Grameen Foundation is a global nonprofit organization that helps the world’s poorest people achieve their full potential by providing access to essential financial services and information on health and agriculture that can transform their lives. Founded in 1997, it delivers solutions that respond to the needs of the poor, as well as tools that help poverty-focused organizations become more effective. It focuses on initiatives that can achieve widespread impact and uses an open-source approach that makes it easy for other organizations to adopt them broadly. Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the Grameen family of companies, is an inaugural member of its Board of Directors, and now serves as director emeritus. Grameen Foundation is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in the U.S., Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @GrameenFdn.

About MicroEnsure
MicroEnsure is the world’s leading organization focused on helping mass-market consumers address the risks they face.  With 12 years of operation in 35 countries, largely in Africa and Asia, MicroEnsure currently serves more than 12 million customers with a range of microinsurance products and services.  In partnership with telecoms, insurers, banks, microfinance organisations and NGOs, MicroEnsure has been a key driver of creating and building the global microinsurance market, having launched more than 200 products in its history.  MicroEnsure is a for-profit social enterprise backed by IFC, Omidyar Foundation, Opportunity International, Telenor Group, Sanlam and AXA.  For more information, please visit

About Penda Health
Penda Health is building a chain of medical centres to finally deliver high quality healthcare to Kenya’s low income women and families. Penda owns and operates 3 medical centres in and around Nairobi that offer comprehensive primary healthcare with an emphasis on reproductive, maternal and child health. Their team has already treated over 30,000 patients and is currently honing in on the right business model that can sustainably deliver quality care to millions of Kenyans in 100 medical centres across East Africa over the next 10 years. Penda Health is a Kenyan for-profit social enterprise, an IPIHD innovator and was recently named one of Kenya’s Top 50 Most Innovative Companies. Learn more at 

About Clifford Chance
Clifford Chance is one of the world's pre-eminent law firms with significant depth and range of resources across five continents.  As a single, fully integrated, global partnership, we pride ourselves on our approachable, collegiate and team based way of working.  We always strive to exceed the expectations of our clients, which include corporates from all the commercial and industrial sectors, governments, regulators, trade bodies and not for profit organisations.  We provide them with the highest quality advice and legal insight, which combines the firm's global standards with in-depth local expertise.

Liselle Yorke, Grameen Foundation
+202-628-3560, ext 128, lyorke [at]

Peter Gross, MicroEnsure
+254-786-499-100, peter.gross [at]

Nicholas Sowden, Penda Health
+254-716-230-117, Nicholas [at]