Africa has some truly dedicated and inspirational social entrepreneurs who want to make a real and positive difference to the lives of others. Jacqueline Kiage is doing just that in rural Kenya by starting a world-class social enterprise eye clinic, Innovation Eye Centre, to provide life-enhancing eye surgery and specialist eye care to patients that is affordable and accessible. Jacqueline is an MBA Alumni of the Universita’ Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore Altis Graduate School of Business and Society in Milan, Italy. Learn more about this programme at www.e4impact.org
As part of this month’s focus on the wellness sector in Africa, we heard about this dedicated and inspirational social entrepreneur and was keen to find out more.
How Jacqueline got started on her entrepreneurial journey
Jacqueline is a woman of vision. She was born and raised in rural Kenya, and throughout her own life, she always had the desire of improving the life of rural Kenyans. After a studying for her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and Chemistry, she married her student sweetheart Daniel, a young eye doctor hailing from the western region of Kisii. They raised a family in Nairobi where Daniel worked in various hospitals. At that time, Jacqueline decided to become a social entrepreneur, as she had an immense desire to start-up a venture solving people issues. In 2012, she enrolled in the MBA offered by ALTIS in partnership with the Tangaza University College in Nairobi, originally with the business idea of setting up a distribution network of solar lamps. After six months of testing, Jacqueline realized that in fact the real unmet need in rural Kenya was health, specifically eye surgery in Western Kenya, a region with a high incidence of preventable blindness such as cataract and trachoma. Leveraging on Daniel’s technical competence, the couple decided to start the “Innovation Eye Centre”, an accessible eye clinic adopting a Social Enterprise model located in Kisii town. Few people would think of establishing a private healthcare facility in Kenya’s rural areas as many patients there cannot afford private care. However, many public health institutions face personnel, equipment and essential supply shortages, making the need for affordable private care for rural households even more pressing.
About the Innovation Eye Centre
Starting with the family savings, a lot of sacrifice and grants and loans from friends, they started their social entrepreneurial journey together. In less than one year, thanks to her determination and hard work, Jacqueline achieved the arduous task of raising more than €600,000 from international donors. “The fact that we were looking to sustain ourselves financially while still helping the community made the project attractive to several financiers” underlines Jacqueline. They then approached a bank for asset financing to buy medical equipment. In 2013, the Innovation Eye Centre opened for business.
Today, the hospital serves 70 patients each day, and has employed 20 clinical and non-clinical staff. It operates on a social enterprise model, which basically means using business principles and social action to meet the needs of the society in which the hospital operates. It has a subsidy revenue model with three categories of patients. The first tier is the private one, where patients who desire premium services pay higher costs. The second tier provides for general healthcare services, while the last tier involves meeting the needs of patients who can’t afford treatment. The last tier of patients are served through eye camps held across the region, with diagnostic and eye care services offered at little or no cost. For instance, the hospital carries out cataract surgeries at Sh3,000 (€26), which is way below cost. The Innovation Eye Centre has the capacity to provide specialized treatment and surgeries, and has already served more than 30,000 patients.
The Official Launch of the Centre introduces a new era of access to affordable and accessible diagnostic and eye care services in rural Kenya
The Innovation Eye Center in Kisii officially opened its doors to the public on November 29th in 2013, with a grand opening ceremony officiated by H.E Hon. Governor James Ongwae of Kisii County. As a result, it became the first Specialty Private Eye Hospital in the South Western region of Kenya. The launch started with a week-long free eye exam and cataract surgery camp where about 2000 people received free eye exams, 354 patients received spectacles at very low prices, 216 patients received vision restoration through free cataract surgery and about 500 patients received vision restoration through glasses and other surgeries. The Innovation Eye Centre utilizes the latest medical equipment and cutting edge technology for eye care, most modern medication and highly qualified staff of international repute. The center receives referrals for care from Nairobi, Eldoret, Kitale and other parts of the country.