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. | November 2022
Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter reported Contro’s pre-seed round as $5.6 million based on earlier reports. This has been corrected in line with updated announcements.
Digital health solutions in Kenya are supporting HIV prevention and optimizing local health supply chains
Kenyan health start-up MYDAWA has launched a telehealth solution focused on HIV prevention to enable end-to-end virtual healthcare for customers seeking to access Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medicines. The solution was developed with grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the aim of providing patients with discreet digital access to HIV-related care amid prevalent stigma about the virus. The solution was developed in partnership with the University of Washington, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Centre, Jhpiego and Audere.
Still in Kenya, the government of Kisumu county has partnered with Maisha Meds to launch a mobile-based solution to optimize drug prescription and supply management at the 144 health facilities across the county. Having previously recorded significant losses from unused expired medicines due to poor tracking of inventory, the new partnership will see prescriptions issued through Maisha Meds’ digital channels to improve the accuracy of inventory management and supply planning.
Early-stage start-ups are securing funding support through equity investment, grants and awards
South African sexual and reproductive health start-up Contro raised $585,000 in a pre-seed round from investors, including Plug & Play, iCubed Capital, WZ Capital, Jozi Angels Network and angel investors. With new funding, Contro is aiming to grow its team and suite of services, as well as expand across South Africa.
Egypt-based online pharmaceutical marketplace i‘SUPPLY raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed round led by Disruptech Ventures. i’SUPPLY enables procurement transactions between drug manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and pharmacies through its digital platform. The start-up has onboarded 5,000 pharmacies since it launched in 2021 and is now targeting national expansion.
Nigerian telehealth start-up Mobihealth received a $1 million grant award from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The grant will facilitate a feasibility study supporting Mobihealth’s expansion to Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, and Egypt. The expansion is projected to improve access to healthcare for up to 100,000 people annually across the selected countries.
Moroccan healthtech start-ups Distripha and Ta7alil have been selected to participate in 212 Founders, an incubation program which offers up to $640,000 in initial funding to participating start-ups. The program, which is sponsored by CDG Invest (the investment arm of Morocco’s state-owned CGD Group), facilitates funding and market access for promising local start-ups. Distripha (founded in 2018) offers AI-powered inventory management solutions to pharmacies while Ta7alil (founded in 2020) connects patients to healthcare professionals and facilities in Morocco.
LifeBlood, a digital health platform operating in Sierra Leone, received $25,000 in prize money after being named the grand winner of the Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East. Launched by telecoms giant Orange in 2011, the award spotlights tech start-ups advancing sustainable development goals. For its part, LifeBlood ensures increased availability of blood at local blood banks by enabling seamless donation processes for donors.
Partnerships between financial institutions and digital health start-ups are improving access to healthcare in Nigeria
Nigerian health start-up Mobihealth has partnered with Union Bank to offer subsidized access to telehealth solutions for the banks’ customers. In addition to providing digital access to remote consultations, the partnership will also include physical access points for telehealth consultations in select Union Bank branches across the country.
Similarly, WellaHealth, a micro-insurance health start-up, has partnered with Stanbic IBTC Bank to enable increased access to affordable health insurance solutions. WellaHealth’s solutions will enable the Bank’s customers access healthcare affordably while avoiding the typical upfront expenses that often pose a barrier to receiving care.
Both partnerships offer Mobihealth and WellaHealth significant user acquisition opportunities as their services will be embedded into the banks’ digital applications.
Nigeria’s new start-up law promises a new dawn for regulation of health technology innovations
Nigeria recently became only the third African country with a national Startup Act after a proposed “Startup Bill” was signed into law. The overarching goal of the new law, created in close collaboration with local ecosystem stakeholders, is to foster tech-driven innovation and growth. In theory, the law should result in regulations for tech start-ups becoming clearer and more nuanced while incentives like tax breaks, government loans, and credit guarantee schemes are also planned.
For local health technology start-ups, the Nigeria Startup Act comes at an opportune time as new healthtech-focused regulations emerge: Nigeria launched online pharmacy regulations in January. Long-term, the law should also set off more innovation-friendly regulations to support the emergence and growth of tech-enabled models to leapfrog public health systems challenges, and accelerate positive outcomes.
However, it remains to be seen how quickly the landscape of local start-up regulations will evolve in alignment with the newly passed law.
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