DFC business roundtable highlights need for disability-inclusive investment

According to the Global Poverty Project, 80 percent of the estimated one billion individuals who live with a disability are based in the developing world. Because living with a disability can make it harder to participate in the workforce or to gain access to essential services, there is a significant need for investment in businesses that are owned by, are inclusive of, or provide services to people with disabilities.

On July 14, DFC hosted a virtual business roundtable to address the need for more investment in businesses that are inclusive of disabled individuals, as part of a broader effort to reach underserved communities.

“Part of good development is making sure that it involves inclusive development,” DFC Chief Development Officer Andrew Herscowitz told the 50+ businesses that attended the intimate event. During the session, DFC also outlined the investment tools it offers to support businesses in emerging markets.

The event gave DFC the opportunity to highlight a project that serves the disability community, providing an important service at a low cost. In Cameroon, DFC financing helped a local hospital, the Magrabi Cameroon Eye Institute, provide thousands of cataract surgeries. The organization struggled to access financing since many investors saw this as a high-risk project in a high-risk market, a perception that often keeps poorer communities from getting needed services.

DFC’s innovative loan was structured as a Development Impact Bond, a pay-for-performance loan in which lenders earn higher returns as the hospital reaches more patients. During the project’s first year, this financing helped the hospital screen more than 50,000 patients and complete more than 2,300 cataract surgeries. Low-income patients received the sight-saving surgery for free or at a subsidized rate.

To Joseph di Silvio, the Impact and Performance Manager who was part of the investment consortium that created this model, “DFC’s name, know-how, and expertise increased this transaction’s visibility and created a demonstration effect to make this transaction something that we could scale up and replicate in other regions.”

“It was one of my favorite projects because it showed how DFC can innovatively meet a need in a challenging market,” said Dia Martin, the project underwriter and DFC Managing Director.

In the future, DFC hopes to build on its success with this project by supporting companies that provide jobs, career growth opportunities, and ladders to success for members of the disability community, demonstrating how disabled persons can be valuable assets within an organization.

Over the past year, DFC has hosted more than 20 virtual business roundtables, connecting with more than 1,000 businesses in developing countries around the world while raising awareness about DFC’s tools and its commitment to provide financing to underserved communities.

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U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Investing in development and advancing U.S. foreign policy. Twitter: @DFCgov