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Global donors are backing homegrown AI solutions to advance health equity

Written By

  • Zillah Waminaje

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 2023

Global donors are backing homegrown AI solutions to advance health equity across Africa

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other Global Grand Challenges partners have awarded $100,000 grants to 19 digital health researchers and innovators across eight African countries as part of the broader Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence Use Challenge. The selected innovators will be supported to develop AI solutions that advance equitable access to healthcare, particularly in low to middle-income countries.

The selected innovators across South Africa (5), Kenya (4), Nigeria (2), Ghana (2), Tanzania (2), Senegal (2), Malawi (1), and Uganda (1) will employ generative AI and Large Language Models to test and implement solutions for disease surveillance, public health emergency management, clinical decision support systems, radiology, health promotion, and data management. The innovators will also have access to a network of experts during the development process and present their findings at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Dakar, Senegal in October 2023.

Innovators are attracting funding amid a global investment slump

Remedial Health, a pharmaceutical supply chain startup operating across Nigeria, raised $12 million in a Series A equity and debt funding round to drive expansion and scale its inventory financing service offering. Investors include QED Investors, Ventures Platform, Y Combinator, Tencent, and Gaingels. Remedial Health offers procurement, inventory management, and financing solutions to pharmacies and clinics across Nigeria.

Kenyan telemedicine startup, Zuri Health secured additional funding from Five35 Ventures in an undisclosed round to drive its scale. The startup has also partnered with pharmaceutical giant Bayer to scale up its digital family planning services across Africa. Founded in 2020, Zuri Health operates in 10 countries across Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa.

Ethiopian women’s health startup Yene Health raised an undisclosed pre-seed round from Jaza Rift Ventures. The funding will support the scale of its impact on maternal health and family planning services in Africa’s second largest country. The startup has also partnered with the Ethiopian Medical Association to launch a National Health Radio channel to drive health literacy among key audiences.

In Northern Africa, Moroccan diagnostics startup DeepEcho received funding from the Moroccan Ministry of Industry and Trade as part of the ministry’s goal to fund and support innovations in the country. Similarly, The Phillips Foundation announced its strategic investment in Egyptian health startup, Rology, to increase access to specialized radiology services across the continent.

The funding comes amid a global funding slump for health technology innovations: Q3 2023 saw the lowest amount raised by healthtech startups since Q3 2017.

New product partnerships and an ecosystem milestone

In Kenya, B2B pharmaceutical marketplace MedSource has partnered with local fintech SasaPay to offer more financial solutions to healthcare providers and enhance customer retention. The move will connect pharmacies and healthcare facilities, using Medsource’s platform to SasaPay’s financial services solutions. Amid the competitive landscape of B2B inventory procurement, pharmaceutical marketplaces typically expand their product suite to include financial solutions, including inventory financing.

In Nigeria, a digital healthcare platform Clafiya introduced an enterprise solution to provide organizations and businesses with health and wellness service packages for employees. The product expansion comes after a recent $610,000 pre-seed round funding round from Norrsken AcceleratorAcquired Wisdom FundHustle FundVoltron CapitalMicrotraction, and Ajim Capital.

Rwandan digital health insurance company Eden Care has been selected as part of global tech accelerator Y Combinator‘s summer cohort – making it the first Rwandan company ever selected for the program. Eden Care offers employers across Africa with a unified digital platform to oversee their employees’ health and well-being requirements.

A rare acquisition in African health-tech ecosystems

Egyptian B2B pharmaceutical marketplace, Grinta acquired local competitor, Auto-Cure to expand its pharmaceutical supply chain operations across the country. While acquisitions in Africa’s nascent health-tech ecosystems are largely rare, Grinta stands out as one of few companies pursuing an expansion-by-acquisition strategy, having now acquired three digital startups since it launched operations in 2021, resulting in growing its presence across nine governorates in Egypt.

Recommended Read

“Transformation, not data collection” is needed to reboot digital health systems across Africa. This Devex article highlights how the misalignment between digital health initiatives and local needs and realities is a significant hurdle to the adoption, scale-up, and sustainability of digital health solutions on the continent.

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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