Featured Initiatives – Rockefeller Foundation :: Lacuna Fund; Loan Facility for Africa-COVID

Featured Initiatives – Rockefeller Foundation

Lacuna Fund Announces its First Round of Funding that will Unlock the Power of AI to Accelerate Pioneering Agricultural Solutions in African Countries
Agricultural AI projects across Africa receive funding to produce labeled training datasets for machine learning that will help alleviate food security challenges, spur economic opportunities, and give researchers, farmers, communities, and policymakers access to superior agricultural data.

NEW YORK, NY | January 13, 2021 – Lacuna Fund announces its first cohort of supported projects in the agricultural AI for social good domain. Funding recipients will produce labeled datasets in Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa. Projects will address a range of agricultural needs, including livestock and fisheries management, as well as crop identification, yield estimation, and disease detection in crops that shore up food security efforts in the region—namely cassava, maize, beans, bananas, pearl millet, and cocoa. Learn more about each individual project here.

With over 100 exceptional applications from, or in partnership with, organizations across Africa, it’s clear that the demand for high-quality, reliable, and representative labeled training data is high, and the expertise, capacity, and groundwork needed to produce it is growing by the day. All datasets produced will be locally developed and owned, but they will be openly accessible to the international data community…

Lacuna Fund began as a funder collaborative between The Rockefeller Foundation, Google.org, and Canada’s International Development Research Centre. With secretariat support from Meridian Institute, it has since evolved into a multi-stakeholder engagement composed of technical experts, thought leaders, local beneficiaries, and end users. Collectively, we are committed to creating and mobilizing labeled datasets that both solve urgent local problems and lead to a step change in machine learning’s potential worldwide.


New Loan Guarantee Facility Unlocks Over $30M to Shore Up Private Sector Health Care in five African Countries during Covid-19
New Initiative Will Help Keep Doors Open for Estimated 1600 Health Facilities Offering Malaria Treatment and other Essential Health Services

New York and Washington, D.C. | January 11, 2021 – A new emergency loan guarantee facility makes more than USD$30 million available to private, small- and medium enterprise (SME) health providers in five high malaria burden African countries. The loans will support healthcare providers in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda to continue offering essential health services, including malaria treatments, to more than five million Africans. The facility was created by the Health Finance Coalition, a group of leading philanthropies, investors, donors and technical partners focused on mobilizing significant private investment to achieve transformative healthcare impact in Africa.

Private sector healthcare providers deliver nearly 50 percent of all healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, including life-saving interventions such as early malaria diagnosis and treatment, ante-natal care and routine vaccinations. If left unaddressed, these vital health needs could overwhelm already overburdened health systems and add to the loss of life during the pandemic. Projections in 2020, for example, estimated that moderate disruptions in treatment seeking could lead to as many as 100,000 additional malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

As countries have shut down sectors of their economies and asked citizens to remain at home to slow the spread of Covid-19, all health providers have seen a decrease in demand for services. For private healthcare providers, this also means decreased revenues, putting them at risk of closing during a time when access to care is already a challenge.

The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative is one of the first initiatives to address the economic crunch that the private health sector in Africa is facing due to Covid-19. A catalytic $700,000 investment by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) enables a $17.7 million loan guarantee from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and $1.5 million in philanthropic funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, and the MCJ Amelior Foundation. Together, this effort unlocks more than $30 million in loans to SME health providers. Additional support comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Innovation and Impact (CII).

Of the five million patients that the loan facility could impact, almost 3 million are low-income patients, and approximately 2.4 million are women and 1.4 million are children, who are disproportionately at risk of malaria and other infectious diseases. The loan facility will be managed by Malaria No More and loans will be administered through the Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit health investment fund. Loans are expected to average $17,000 per provider to help stabilize operations, buy essential medical equipment including personal protective equipment, and finance small-scale construction to protect patients from COVID-19 infection. MCF’s partner organization SafeCare, in collaboration with PMI, will provide training materials to facilities on how to continue providing routine services safely during the pandemic…