Q. How quickly can we expect ‘winners’ in African healthtech to emerge?
To examine this question, we looked at supply chain innovations over the past 15 years, identifying 4 archetypes of innovations:
- Wave 1: MAS authenticators were founded around 2007
- Wave 2: Drone operators launched around 2011
- Wave 3: Early supply chain startups began operations around 2016
- Wave 4: African-led supply-chain startups began in 2015
To understand the trajectories of ‘winners’ in these archetypal categories, we chose 3 leading companies in each wave, and plotted their key milestones by year using publicly available data. The data are not broadly representative of ‘winners’ in each category, but are illustrative of growth and funding pathways in healthcare supply chains startups.
A. Winners have emerged in disruptive categories in ~6 years. But this timeline may not apply to African founders.
The sample of leading innovations from previous waves of supply chain innovations show ‘winners’ in Waves #1-3 could achieve multi-country expansion and raise series B funding within ~6 years. However, the companies in previous waves were mostly founded by non-Africans who captured grant funding and investment capital.
African-led supply chain innovators in Wave 4 do not appear to capture funding at the same rate – those in our small sample expanded to a second country after 6 years, and typically undertook this expansion without external investment at the Series A level.
Given that at least $100M in funding is poised to enter this sector from the newly launched Transform Health Fund, Sanofi Impact Fund, the IFC, and more, it will be critical to ensure the latest wave of African-led companies can capture growth financing to create robust, locally-led ecosystems.
It is also important to note that even though ‘winners’ in the 3 previous waves have emerged, they are still operating on the sidelines of global health supply chains. This indicates that major purchasers’ ability to understand and integrate disruptive technologies may be slower than we hope.
Prof. Efosa Ojomo describes an impact trajectory that market-creating innovations take from Discovery, to Distribution, to Democratization; whereby innovations are launched, move from reaching one to many, and many to all. Most healthtech innovations in Africa were founded recently, and we’re cheering for a few to reach the Distribution stage shortly. But we need all hands on deck; thoughtful investment now will ensure locally-led companies are also positioned to scale solutions that help improve access to care – while creating sustainable local jobs.
At Salient, we believe healthcare supply chains of the future will be powered by data, and driven by African innovation. We’re particularly active in connecting innovators to potential customers, who can benefit from data-driven approaches that are locally-led. If you’re interested in learning more, or meeting leading African companies in this space – get in touch.
Companies included for each wave are: Wave 1: Sproxil, PharmaSecure, mPedigree; Wave 2: Zipline, Swoop Aero, Wingcopter; Wave 3: Kasha, Maisha Meds, Meditect; Wave 4: Remedial Health, Grinta, Lifebank. Publicly available data on growth and investments were collected in summer 2023.