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 and suggestions. | Feb. 2022
What does telemedicine look like in East Africa?
Salient Advisory studied telemedicine and digital counselling companies in East Africa last summer, collecting data from 26 companies across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. Read our findings on a growing and dynamic space, exciting offerings that blend physical & digital care, and critical questions about the future of the ecosystem.
Innovators are securing early and growth stage funding to scale digital health solutions
Reliance Health, a Nigerian start-up building insurance solutions, has raised $40 million in the largest Series B round by an African health-tech start-up. The round was led by General Atlantic with participation from Partech, Picus Capital, Tencent Exploration, Asia Africa Investment and Consulting, P1 Ventures, Laerdal Million Lives Fund, Arvantis Social Foundation Impact Investment, and M3, Inc. Having garnered 200,000 end users in Nigeria since 2016, Reliance Health is now aiming to expand to up to three African countries by the end of the year.
East Africa-based e-commerce giant Copia has raised $50 million in a Series C round led by Goodwell Investments, with participation from Zebu Investment Partners, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Koa Labs, Lightrock, German development finance institution DEG & Perivoli Innovations. Operating in Kenya and Uganda, Copia enables e-commerce transactions, including purchase of health products, for residents in rural areas through a network of agents.
Afya Rekod, a Kenyan electronic health records start-up, raised a $2 million seed round from investors, including Mac Venture Capital and Next Chymia. Afya Rekod provides its 150,000 end users with solutions to track and access their health records, and also offers health facilities solutions to manage administration, patients and inventory.
HealthLeap, a South Africa-based start-up that provides an AI-based clinical assistant for dietitians, raised a $1.1 million pre-seed round led by Fifty Years. HealthLeap’s flagship product enables dietitians create precise, personalized nutritional plans for patients through automated clinical calculations. After testing its product in a private beta program, HealthLeap is set for a full launch with a waitlist of nearly 1,000 dietitians, pharmacists and physicians.
Women Entrepreneurship for Africa has selected 15 women-led health start-ups as part of its program. Supported by the European Union, the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States & the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the program provides female African innovators with investment readiness training as well as network and ecosystem access. Participants will receive €10,000 in grant funding and, additionally, selected high-growth start-ups will receive up to €50,000.
Governments are partnering with innovators to leverage digital solutions for increased public health impact
In Nigeria, medical supplies logistics start-up LifeBank has partnered with the Yobe state government to digitize local medical supply chains and enable trackability of products. LifeBank’s proprietary technology enables it gather data to predict demand for medical supplies and ensure sustained supply.
Drone delivery start-up Zipline is partnering with the Bayelsa state government in Nigeria to ensure on-demand access to medical supplies for health facilities across the state. Additionally, the state government has partnered with DrugStoc, a pharmaceutical procurement partner, to ensure that quality-assured medicines are available to be delivered to public health facilities using Zipline’s technology.
Zipline’s distribution capabilities have been proven in Ghana where it recently marked a milestone of distributing over 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 250 health facilities across the country, as part of an ongoing partnership with the government.
Innovative approaches to plug healthcare gaps continue to gain traction
In Nigeria, Soso Care is scaling its micro-health insurance scheme which enables low-income households and slum dwellers access health coverage in exchange for recyclables. Soso Care submits collected recyclable materials to waste management companies to generate revenue, which in turn, finances health insurance for its users. The start-up, which has tested its model in four Nigerian cities is aiming to scale to Lagos, Africa’s largest city, this year, and has long-term ambitions to replicate the model in select Asian cities.
In Kenya, Jacaranda Health has marked a key milestone: one million women have registered to receive pregnancy related-information through Prompts, its free, AI-powered SMS service. Using AI, Prompts helps expecting mothers interact with, and receive vital health information from, health practitioners within 24 hours of their request, and within an hour for clinically urgent queries. The service, which is available in English and Swahili, is aiming to reach 1.5 million users by the end of the year.
As part of Brookings’ Foresight Africa 2022 report, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate’s essay, Reimagining the future of health in Africa, highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on African health systems and lays out eight critical recommendations to ensuring long-term self-sufficiency and equal access to health across the continent.
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