MARCH | What we’re reading on health tech in Africa

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. 

 

Accelerating improvements in health product distribution 

In a new report supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Salient Advisory examined the needs and opportunities to blend highly risk-tolerant grant capital with debt and equity to improve health product distribution in sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings suggest that new blended financing approaches are needed to: support the growth of technology-driven innovations, enable affordable and timely access to foreign currency to optimize product importation, and affordable working capital in local currency to ease cash conversion cycles. In response we call for the creation of new mechanism to more strategically deploy highly-risk tolerant grant capital, and the development of better risk-assessment mechanisms to unlock access to working capital. Read the full report here. 

 

Landmark partnerships, expansion & investment in African health-tech 

mPharma, the Ghanaian health-tech startup, has expanded to Ethiopia after reaching a franchise agreement with a local pharmaceutical company. The landmark move to Africa’s second most populous country marks mPharma’s eighth market on the continent since being founded in 2013. The company aims to operate pharmacy outlets in Addis Ababa and will also offer Mutti, its fast-growing consumer loyalty program. 

Kenyan diagnostics-focused startup Ilara Health has partnered with iXensor, a Taiwanese health-tech company that focuses on creating mobile-powered digital diagnostics devices. The partnership will see Ilara Health deploy iXensor’s smartphone-based rapid blood testing technology to enhance point-of-care diagnostics and medical testing in primary health centers across Kenya. Similarly, Zuri Health, a recently launched Kenyan telemedicine startup has partnered with online pharmacy MYDAWA. The alliance will see Zuri Health offer health product distribution services, through MYDAWA, to complement its telemedicine offerings.  

Redbird, a Ghanaian health tech startup that aims to improve access to medical testing, raised $1.5 million in a seed round. Redbird is scaling access to testing by providing pharmacy outlets with devices and software which allow them offer rapid testing for up to 10 health conditions.

 

Innovative approaches to accelerating public health goals and access to healthcare

Israeli tech company, Zzapp Malaria is deploying artificial intelligence-powered solutions to achieve the long-running public health goal of eliminating malaria across Africa. Zzapp Malaria uses satellite imagery to source stagnant water bodies that are likely to be breeding zones for mosquitoes after which field workers apply pesticides to eliminate the malaria-causing insects. After trials in Ghana, Mozambique and Ethiopia, the company is hoping to roll-out operations more broadly by the end of the year. 

A global collaboration among researchers could also prove just as vital to reducing the potency of malaria as an open access dataset on aggregated information of genetic variations of malaria-causing parasites from 28 countries has been made available to researchers globally. A clearer understanding of the parasite’s genomic data and evolution, scientists believe, will facilitate work on optimizing malaria medication. 

Supported by global non-profit PharmAccess, Kenya’s Kisumu county is piloting a health insurance scheme to fund coverage for its poorest households in a bid to achieve universal coverage in the county. Up to 350,000 residents are expected to benefit and will be able to access healthcare at specified health centers during the first phase of the rollout of the scheme. In Nigeria, health-tech startup Greymate Care is using technology to improve geriatric care by connecting elderly patients with vetted care givers through its digital health platform.  

 

Biomedical research in Africa: can private initiatives plug existing gaps? 

In Nigeria, government agencies are historically underfunded and, by extension, lack capacity to undertake groundbreaking biomedical research to drive health innovation. However this gap is increasingly being plugged by private initiatives including 54gene, a venture-backed biotech startup that has developed Africa’s largest biobank and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, a non-profit research outfit hosted in Redeemers University, a privately-owned institution. Similar private sector-driven progress is being seen in South Africa, where biomedical engineering startup Impulse Biomedical has raised venture capital investment after inventing a local alternative for the treatment of anaphylaxis.  

 

Innovator Spotlight 

WellaHealth founder, Dr. Neto Ikpeme, got profiled by ThisDay, one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, aachange agent, who represents the future of Nigeria in the tech world.” Initially an e-health startup focusing on pharmacy automation, WellaHealth now offers affordable healthcare coverage to protect families from the financial shock that comes from unexpected health emergencies.  

That’s all for now. See you next time! 

Comments or suggestions? Contact Yomi here! 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  • Yomi KazeemSalient Advisory

ABOUT SALIENT

New models to deliver health information, products, services and financing are desperately needed globally, especially for equity-seeking populations. As a healthcare consulting firm, we co-develop actionable insights and partnerships, supporting global changemakers to advance outcomes and equity.

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