Because we track locally-driven innovations in health tech across the African continent, we curate a monthly newsletter to share our most “salient” learnings in more real time. We welcome submissions, suggestions.
Data systems and delivery channels for COVID-19 vaccines
South Africa is deploying an electronic vaccine data system to keep track of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. It comprises of an online app through which healthcare workers can enrol for the vaccines, as well as an SMS portal which will generate unique codes and certifications after vaccinations.
To quicken the pace of vaccine distribution, some governments are looking to adopt drone delivery. In Nigeria, Kaduna state government has partnered with Zipline to allow the state to receive and administer the vaccines while decreasing the need for up-front, capital-intensive investments in cold-chain storage. Zipline recently completed the delivery of one million doses of essential vaccines in Ghana.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also backing a project to expand the World Health Organization’s understanding and use of drone delivery for medical products. The foundation is funding WeRobotics, which is currently involved in medical drone deliveries in Ghana and Madagascar, with the aim of allowing the WHO’s regional African office to grow its operational understanding of drone delivery systems for the transportation of medical products.
Innovative solutions to boost users’ access to health services and information
Population Services Kenya and Nairobi Metropolitan Services are partnering to distribute HIV self-testing kits via vending machines. The move is aimed at improving accessibility to HIV tests among men and will see the vending machines placed in outlets of Kenya’s largest supermarket chain.
Cape Town-based biotech start-up BioCODE is making progress in its development of affordable rapid tests for early-stage cancer and cardiovascular disease. The start-up expects to launch a commercial prototype of the test kits by the end of the year.
And in Nigeria, sexual and reproductive health-focused start-up myPaddi has reached 80,000 users. The start-up offers its predominantly young users access to SRH-related products and information as well as discreet consultations with doctors when required.
Global investors and technology leaders continue to bet on African innovators
Kenyan logistics start-up Amitruck has raised pre-seed funding to grow its operations across East Africa – signalling a boon for supply chain and product distribution players. The start-up’s model brings efficiency to product distribution by connecting product owners directly to transporters through its online marketplace.
Google is expanding its accelerator program in Kenya with a commitment to support 100,000 businesses and 15,000 developers this year. The tech giant is also offering $5 million in grant support to Kenyan start-ups. With health-tech start-ups typically underfunded compared to other sectors, such opportunities to secure grant funding and technical assistance can be pivotal to growth plans. Female founders in Africa are also coming under focus with the emergence of investors focused on backing and supporting them. The latest is FirstCheck Africa which is aiming to provide early-stage funding and technical support exclusively to female founders.
Elsewhere, CDC Group, the UK development finance institution, has committed to invest over $1 billion in African businesses across several sectors, including technology, in 2021. It’s a big bet by the impact investor with over half of its portfolio already invested on the continent. The WHO has also partnered with the International Development Innovation Alliance to collaborate on scaling health innovations, particularly in low and middle-income countries.
New regulations in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire may be costly for digital health entrepreneurs
New digital tax regulation in Kenya will place extra levies on online businesses, including health-tech start-ups operating telemedicine and e-pharmacy models. By being passed on to end users, the taxes could drive up healthcare access costs.
And in a move that will hobble the operations of e-pharmacy start-ups, a new law in Côte d’Ivoire will require parcel delivery services, mostly made up of motorcycle couriers, to pay $10,000 to acquire formal licenses.