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Innovative approaches to improve maternal and newborn health in Kenya are delivering impactful results

Written By

  • Yomi Kazeem
  • Zillah Waminaje

Because we track locally-driven innovations in healthtech across the African continent, we curate a monthly newsletter to share our most “salient” learnings in more real time. We welcome submissions and suggestions. 

2023 Round-Up: Investments in African Healthtech

In February, we released 2023 RoundUp: Investments in African Healthtech, our latest market intelligence report, providing a detailed analysis of grant, equity, and debt-based investments in African healthtech startups in 2023. Last week, we followed that up with a webinar to discuss findings and trends from the report with an exciting panel of experts, including Monique Mrazek (Senior HealthTech Industry Specialist, International Finance Corporation); Leesa Shrader (Deputy Director, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); and Amaan Khalfan (Director, Amaseena Consulting & ex-CEO of Goodlife Pharmacy). Missed it? Catch up with the webinar recording.

Innovative approaches to improve maternal and newborn health in Kenya are delivering impactful results

An initiative by Jacaranda Health and Think Well to improve the delivery of maternal and newborn healthcare interventions in Kenya’s Makueni and Kisii counties is showing strong early results. Within the first year of its launch, the initiative’s maternal information system, which provides pregnant women in target communities with timely information and advice from healthcare workers via SMS, has enrolled 90,000 mothers. Further, the program reports that 100 doctors, nurses, and clinical officers have been trained with basic skills to handle emergencies of surgical complications in both counties. By bridging access to vital medical information, particularly in low-resource settings, the initiative plays a crucial role in reducing antenatal mortality.

Early-stage funding and grant awards are sustaining funding momentum for innovators

Ilara Health, a Kenyan healthtech startup raised $4.2 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by DOB Equity, AAIC Investment, Angaza Capital, Black Pearl Investments, Philips Foundation, Perivoli Innovation, Alphamundi, Kiva Capital and Boehringer Ingelheim. The investment is aimed at powering the expansion of Ilara Health’s clinic support services across Kenya as well as the launch of a new business-to-business health insurance service. Founded in 2019, Ilara Health provides credit financing solutions to primary healthcare clinics to facilitate the provision of diagnostics and pharmaceutical services to patients.

Medikea, a Tanzanian healthcare start-up, received undisclosed funding from The Catalyst Fund to advance its efforts in providing affordable healthcare services to underserved communities. Through an integrated model of physical clinics and telemedicine services, Medikea seeks to enhance patients’ access to cost-effective essential healthcare services.

Nigerian healthtech startup, Helpmum received a $225,000 grant as part of the fourth cohort of the Africa Visionary Fund. Founded in 2017, Helpmum aims to address the high maternal and infant mortality rates by providing training to community birth attendants through its eLearning platform and a vaccination tracking system to improve immunization rates in local communities.

In South Africa, Neo Hutiri, founder of Pelebox, a self-service smart locker system designed to facilitate the regular distribution of medicines to patients, was awarded a £50,000 prize by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition of Pelebox’s impact in addressing health access challenges in Africa.

Intentional approaches to fund and support women founders are gaining momentum

One of the key takeaways in our 2023 RoundUp: Investments in African Healthtech report was a need for funders to create and maintain strategies to strengthen equitable access to early and growth-stage funding for women founders. Two ongoing initiatives are playing a key role in doing just that:

She Wins Africa, a women-focused program by the International Finance Corporation, has selected thirteen African women healthtech founders to participate in its next cohort. Selected across Nigeria (Advantage Health Africa, Famasi Africa, Pad-Up Creations, Debbo Africa), Kenya (MobileUurka, Drop Access, Panacare), South Africa (Jamii Life, FemConnect), Burkina Faso (Palobde Afrique), Congo (Afriwell Health), Ghana (MOCHCare) and Uganda (Safe Girl), these innovators will receive investment readiness support, mentorship, and access to investors and industry leaders across Africa.

Bena Care, a Kenyan-based home care startup, raised $75,000 in funding from Women in Tech, a women-focused financing facility by Village Capital and Standard Chartered Bank. The program seeks to address gender financing gaps across local ecosystems and focuses primarily on early-stage, impact-focused startups led by women founders. Founded in 2017, Bena Care provides home care services, including clinical and supportive care, to chronically ill patients.

Recommended Read

This Devex opinion piece provides insights on approaches to sustainably improve maternal health through strategic public-private sector collaborations. It curates data-led opinions from key experts, including our founder, Mara Hansen Staples!

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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