Because we track locally-driven innovations in health tech across the African continent, we are prototyping a monthly newsletter to share our most “salient” learnings in more real time. We welcome submissions, suggestions.
Newly-launched services, and data
With support from UK Aid, Population Services International recently piloted its Kenya Pleasure Bot. The 24-hour information source provides young adults evidence-based responses to questions on SRH and sexual pleasure.
Aviro Health’s digital HIV counseling and self-testing service Ithaka was hailed as a pioneer in HIV care for its ability to ensure private access to testing despite COVID-19. Reports point to early successes, with >200 patients using testing booths in 3 clinics to date.
In a move toward achieving greater scale, Kenyan e- pharmacy MYDAWA has entered into a partnership with AstraZeneca to offer key products and patient information through its platform, which includes features such as delivery by licensed technicians and adherence reminders.
Maisha Meds, a provider-facing marketplace and inventory management software provider, recently released its point-of-sale data to explore the impact of COVID-19 on private sector demand for contraceptives in Kenya. The report highlights key trends and disruptions in sales, and could help inform future public health priorities to mitigate consequences of reduced access.
Funding & support opportunities from incubators, accelerators, funds & government
On the funding side, Techstars unveiled its new Female Founders First program, designed to assist women founders in healthcare, e-commerce & other sectors with advisory support and access to investor networks. Melissa Menke of Access Afya will participate this year.
Villgro Kenya announced plans to scale across East Africa to support the region’s budding e-health sector. Re-branding as Villgro Africa, the early-stage incubator and impact investor will offer mentorship and seed funding to African founders.
In a move to foster local innovation, the JUA Kickstarter Fund launched a new funding opportunity to provide African startups capital to kickstart growth across the continent. Applications are open until January 31, 2020 and can be submitted here.
Nigeria’s new Economic Sustainability Plan also calls for investments to promote in-country production of health products in the wake of COVID-19. Importantly, the plan endorses collaboration with private sector innovators interfacing with the pharmaceutical sector. This could include innovators such as DrugStoc, RxAll & Medsaf who are working to maximize supply chain efficiency.
The talent pool is growing
Google and the IFC describe a “historical peak” in their e-Conomy Africa 2020 report; there are currently 700,000 professional software developers – a number which is projected to continue increasing in coming years.
The future of e-commerce in Africa
We see continued reports that COVID-19 has paved the way the growth of e-commerce. Both the number of people shopping online as well as the total revenues per customer have grown, with TechCabal reporting that average revenue per online customer has increased from 55$ to 70$ in 2020 in Africa (scroll to bottom of link). However, purchasing patterns may be shifting to high-volume, lower-value transactions (such as groceries and household items); data released by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System showed a nearly 11% drop in the average transaction value for 2020 as compared to 2019.
It’s not clear how these trends will affect the sector overall. E-commerce giant Jumia’s Q2 & Q3 earnings showed a drop in the year-over-year Gross Merchandise Value of transactions, stoking concerns about the company and the sector more broadly.
Despite this, new solutions are emerging to help African businesses engage in online sales. Mastercard recently launched a “SME-in-a-Box” solution to help small merchants digitize their businesses, while Jumia is shifting to allow 3rd parties to sell on the platform. If these services extend to health retailers, it could mean a big boost for health e-commerce as more small and independent providers partake in digital sales.