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. | September 2022
Growing investment support and recognition for African women-led healthtech start-ups
Chefaa (Egypt), Zuri Health (Kenya), Emergency Response Africa (Nigeria) and Rahet Bally (Egypt) were selected among 14 women-founded companies for Venture Capital for Africa‘s flagship Venture Showcase program which, this year, is focused on driving capital support to women-led African start-ups. As part of the cohort, the selected companies will receive investor readiness mentorship over the next two months before pitching to a curated group of investors.
Abimbola Adebakin, founder of MyMedicines (Nigeria) and Nadia Gamal El Din, founder of Rahet Bally (Egypt) were the only healthtech founders selected among 20 finalists for the Africa Business Heroes award, a flagship philanthropic programme established by the Jack Ma Foundation in recognition of African entrepreneurs. Both founders are now on the cusp of making the final shortlist of 10 entrepreneurs that will share a pool of $1.5 million in grant funding.
Women-led healthtech founders are also gaining recognition beyond the continent: last month, Health Tech World named Morenike Fajemisin, founder of WHISPA (Nigeria), Tito Ovia, co-founder of Helium Health (Nigeria) and Hauwa Ojeifo, founder of SheWritesWoman (Nigeria), in its global long list of impactful women leading health technology companies.
International organizations are backing African digital health innovations through risk-tolerant grants
11 African healthtech start-ups–Clafiya, ClinicPesa, Healthlane, Healthtracka, Kapsule, Lifebank, OneHealth, TechNovera, TIBU Health, Wellahealth & Zuri Health–were among the 60 African companies that received a share of a $4 million investment from Google’s Black Founders Fund. Each start-up received up to $100,000 in non-dilutive capital, as well as up to $200,000 in technical support credits. (Three of the awardees–Wellahealth, OneHealth and Zuri Health–featured in Salient Advisory’s latest report on innovations in digitized distributions of health products in Africa.)
Nigerian maternity health start-up, HelpMum received a $250,000 grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation to support the deployment of its “AI-Driven Vaccine Intervention Optimiser” solution in Nigeria. The data-driven solution will enable the start-up track and optimize immunization schedules for its users to improve national vaccination coverage rates of children.
Zuri Health (Kenya), Waspito (Cameroon), Susu (Côte d’Ivoire), TIBU Health (Kenya) awarded undisclosed grants as part of the Digital Transformation Challenge for Africa. The start-ups successfully pitched their businesses to private investors, public decision makers and international institutions at a showcase event organized by Health54, the health-focused corporate venture capital arm of CFAO Group.
Innovators are securing critical early-stage equity funding to drive scale
Koolboks, a Nigeria-focused cold storage solutions start-up, raised $2.5 million in a seed funding round led by Aruwa Capital Management, with participation from other investors including Acumen, Blue Earth Capital, All On and GSMA. Koolboks’ solar-powered devices enable users affordably refrigerate products for up to four days without electricity. The devices have healthcare applications as they enable storage of temperature-sensitive health products, particularly in communities without steady access to electricity. With new funding, the start-up is now aiming to scale its operations across Nigeria and build a local production facility.
South African e-pharmacy start-up BusyMed has raised an undisclosed funding round from E4E Africa. BusyMed partners with pharmacies to enable users speak with pharmacists as well as find and buy medications online. The start-up is now aiming to grow operations by increasing its network of pharmacies to 300 by the end of the year.
Innovators are pursuing scale through acquisition and geographical expansion
mPharma has acquired a majority stake in HealthPlus, one of Nigeria’s largest pharmacy chains. Strategically, the move enables mPharma expand its pharmacy footprint in Nigeria and grow “mutti”, a patient-focused health membership program. The acquisition is in line with mPharma’s established strategy of purchasing pharmacy chains to drive expansion in African markets: it acquired Haltons Pharmacy (Kenya) in 2019 and Vine Pharmacy (Uganda) in 2021.
Egyptian mental wellness start-up Shezlong has expanded operations to South Africa where it will operate as “Upright.” The start-up provides users with access to a large pool of psychotherapy professionals for virtual, confidential consultations. The expansion to South Africa is line with the start-up’s broader ambitions of building pan-African operations and improving access to mental healthcare.
As calls grow for more equitable approaches to funding to bridge gender financing gaps, Eloho Omame, co-founder at FirstCheck Africa, makes a data-driven argument with an opinion piece: There’s Never Been A Better Time to Invest in Africa’s Female Founders
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