The United States, Finland, and Canada have combined efforts to provide $20 million (approximately Sh2.8 billion) in funding for Hewatele, a Kenyan medical oxygen producer. The financing has been secured from various sources, including the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Finnfund, Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF), UBS Optimus Foundation, and Grand Challenges Canada.

The primary objective of this funding is to support the establishment of a state-of-the-art Cryogenic Medical Liquid Oxygen Air Separation Unit plant at Tatu Industrial Park. Scheduled to begin operations in March 2025, this facility will mark the first modern liquid oxygen manufacturing plant in East Africa in the last six decades.

The establishment of this plant is crucial in addressing the growing demand for medical-grade liquid oxygen across Kenya, Uganda, and Northern Tanzania. With the escalating need for oxygen in healthcare facilities, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hewatele’s initiative aims to mitigate the challenges of unpredictable deliveries, high prices, and expensive transportation costs associated with medical oxygen.

David Karimi, Deputy Country Head at Rendeavour, the owner and developer of Tatu City, emphasized the transformative impact of Hewatele’s investment on healthcare in Kenya and East Africa. Hewatele founder Bernard Olayo highlighted the significance of the oxygen plant in ensuring sustainable and affordable access to medicinal oxygen, particularly for maternal and child healthcare and primary healthcare support.

The Ministry of Health has reported a significant increase in the demand for medical oxygen since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hewatele’s facility is poised to enhance oxygen affordability by boosting production capacity and reducing costs for rural and urban healthcare customers by up to 30 percent.

Beyond addressing immediate healthcare needs, the medicinal oxygen plant will play a crucial role in combating infant mortality rates and reducing fetal distress in the East African region. Improved access to oxygen has the potential to significantly reduce child mortality from pneumonia and save lives during pregnancy complications.

Johanna Raehalme, Finnfund’s Head of Origination in Africa, underscored the importance of oxygen supply, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Georgia Levenson Keohane, CEO of SEDF, emphasized the investment’s commitment to strengthening Africa’s healthcare sector, while Maya Ziswiler, CEO of Optimus Foundation, highlighted the organization’s support for impactful and scalable initiatives like Hewatele.

Zulfiqar Wali, CEO of Hewatele, expressed gratitude for the collaboration and emphasized the positive economic impact of the project, which includes the creation of new direct and indirect jobs, stimulating the local economy, and contributing to the healthcare ecosystem in Kiambu County.

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