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Make it in the Congo, you can make it anywhere

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, 176th out of 187 countries according to the UN. It’s not an obvious first choice location to build a subscription-based healthcare service reliant on people paying privately. Even those who can pay something will not, in any great numbers, be able to pay much. So why do it?

There are a few good reasons, claims Tribeca Asset Management which is exporting its successful low-cost model from Colombia to DRC.

First, there’s a lack of competition – though there may be a good reason why no one else is doing this!

Second, volumes. If no one else is running a low-cost subscription service, you can corner the market. There may be a comparatively small percentage of people willing and able to pay the US$35 a month family subscription fee, but it’s a big country. In fact, Tribeca is aiming for 1m subscribers.

Third, the initial investment is low. There’s under-utilised infrastructure buyable at a comparatively bargain bucket price.

And finally, to misquote Frank Sinatra, “if you can make it there, you make it anywhere” – what better way to prove your concept works than to make it work in a particularly tricky market?

Exporting – or borrowing – successful business models from continent to continent is not new, of course, management at Reina Madre Hospital in Toluca, Mexico, travelled to see the work Lifespring and Cloudnine Care are doing in India. In fact, we know of at least four low costs models which have been exported from India to Mexico – two big countries with low private medical insurance penetration levels.

The crucible of Emerging Markets is where some of the most innovative business models are being forged – it’s where they are needed most.

We’ve often said Western markets have a lot to learn from developments in Emerging Markets. Increasingly, operators in Emerging Market countries have a lot to teach each other too. It’s not competition from established Western market operators they worry about – it’s innovative Emerging Market rivals who think their winning formula might just work abroad too.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.