Governments are committing to digital health solutions to improve health outcomes

Written By

  • Yomi Kazeem

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. | August 2022

Governments are increasingly committing to digital health solutions to improve health outcomes

In Nigeria, medical supplies logistics start-up LifeBank has partnered with the Nasarawa State government to optimize the supply of medical oxygen to public health facilities, by digitizing demand and access trends. LifeBank will monitor oxygen usage and predict demand across the state using AirX, its forecasting and prediction tool. LifeBank will also ensure steady supply through an oxygen production plant it built in the state last year, ensuring end-to-end participation in the local medical oxygen supply chain. The partnership can reduce preventable deaths as inefficient and unreliable oxygen supply is a long-running problem in local health facilities.

Still in Nigeria, digital health start-up Emergency Response Africa has also partnered with the Ekiti State government to improve the efficiency of responsiveness to medical emergencies across the state. The start-up will provide critical on-scene care and emergency transport to move patients to hospitals for further treatment.

In Kenya, the county government of Nakuru has launched an electronic health register to improve the storage, mobility and analysis of residents’ health data across the county. The digitized records will provide county residents with access to their historical medical records and will be leveraged for policy development and disease trends analysis within the county.

Innovators are driving growth, service expansion and public health impact through partnerships

Micro-insurance start-up WellaHealth has partnered with CrowdForce, a local fintech start-up, to scale its offline user acquisition. WellaHealth will leverage CrowdForce’s network of 30,000 agents across Nigeria to provide affordable health coverage plans to population segments that are primarily offline. With fintech start-ups building vast, offline agent banking networks to drive financial inclusion in underserved, hard-to-reach communities, the partnership between both start-ups is evidence that these offline networks can also serve as sales and distribution channels for healthcare services.

In South Africa, VitalAire, a home healthcare provider for chronic care patients, has expanded its services by acquiring the diabetes division of Ethitech, a local distributor of medical devices. The acquisition will broaden VitalAire’s capacity to provide treatment to diabetes patients as part of its at-home healthcare delivery model.

E-commerce operator Konga is partnering with online pharmacy MedDirect on a campaign to improve accessibility and affordability of medicines for underserved population segments in Nigeria. Through the partnership, qualified purchasers will access 10% discounts as well as free delivery on orders for medication.

African innovators continue to access funding amid a global downturn in tech markets

While global tech ecosystems report a downturn, African tech start-ups continue to maintain investment momentum. This momentum may yet extend to local health technology ecosystems as more funding sources open up: Seedstars has raised $20 million to invest in start-up sectors, including digital health, across emerging markets. Similarly, pharma giant Sanofi has launched a fund to support start-ups delivering innovative healthcare solutions in underserved regions.

Recent early-stage investments also signify sustained investor interest in African health technology innovators: Kenyan supply chain solutions start-up Duhqa raised $2 million in seed funding from investors including CrossFund, Roselake Ventures, Mo Angels, Techstars and angel investors. Duhqa facilitates distribution through its digital marketplace platform by enabling retailers purchase products, including pharmaceuticals, directly from manufacturers. Founded in 2021, the company is aiming to scale its offering across Kenya and East Africa.

Canada-based start-up Ubenwa raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding to scale its proprietary AI-powered solution which diagnoses infants based on cry sounds. The funding round was led by Radical Ventures, with participation from AIX Ventures and angel investors. While based in Canada, Ubenwa has significant African links, including two Nigerian co-founders and partnerships with Nigerian hospitals which have aided its development of  a diverse database of clinically annotated infant cry sounds.

African digital health start-ups are receiving recognition & growth support through plaudits and programs

The inaugural Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa has selected Flare, a health emergency response start-up in Kenya, myPaddi, a sexual and reproductive health start-up in Nigeria and Vaxiglobal, a vaccination verification start-up in Zimbabwe, as its winners. The three start-ups will receive $250,000 in grant funding as well as network and mentoring access to accelerate growth.

Similarly, founders of MyMedicines (Nigeria), Rology (Egypt), Rahet Bally (Egypt), Deaftronics (Botswana), Maïa Africa (Burkina Faso) and Koolboks (Nigeria) are health innovators listed among the top 50 finalists for the Africa Business Heroes award, a recognition for outstanding African entrepreneurs. The eventual top 10 finalists will share a pool of $1.5 million in grants.

Welo Health, an at-home health provider, and Ollie App, a mental health start-up, have been selected in the latest cohort of 25 companies by Grindstone Accelerator in South Africa. Both start-ups will participate in a year-long growth program and gain access to market, funding and network support.

Recommended listening

Mara Hansen Staples, founder of Salient Advisory, featured on a recent episode of the Aid, Evolved podcast and spoke about reimagining global aid funding for African health technology innovators. Listen here.

Spread the word! Share this with African health-tech innovators, donors, investors and enthusiasts within your network – and tell them to sign up!

If you know of an organization which offers funding or support to businesses in African health tech, please let us know. Our team evaluates each support opportunity to share with our community of innovators. 


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