How much funding did African health-tech start-ups raise in 2021?

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. | Jan. 2022

Highlighting some of Salient Advisory’s research in 2021

Through the year, our research was featured in >40 news and feature story pieces on local, regional and global publications, including CNBCQuartz & Bloomberg.

In March, we published a report examining the needs and opportunities to blend highly risk-tolerant grant capital with debt and equity to improve health product distribution in sub-Saharan Africa.

In April, we launched an online directory showcasing the exciting innovators featured in our research on health product distribution. We have since expanded and updated the directory to include telemedicine innovators across the continent. The five most visited innovator profiles were AddPharmaAfya RekodRocket HealthDRO Health & Maisha Meds.

In May, we launched our 2021 report on Innovations in Health Product Distribution in Sub Saharan Africa featuring 60+ companies using tech-enabled solutions and models to ease supply chain bottlenecks for health products and improve access to medicines on the continent.

In June, we published a high-level analysis of the health-tech landscape across 12 Francophone African countries, with 74 innovators identified.

In November, we launched a case study on the future of digitally enabled contraceptive care in Kenya and Nigeria, highlighting how health-tech innovators could help expand access to sexual & reproductive health products and services in both countries.

Have a question on African health-tech trends you’d like help with? Get in touch!

How much African health-tech start-ups raise in 2021?

The latest annual investment report by Briter Bridges estimates that African health & biotech start-ups raised $392 million in funding in 2021 – an 81% increase from 2020. As we consistently highlighted through 2021, there was sustained funding momentum for health-tech start-ups, with notable rounds including 54gene ($25 million), Africa Health Holdings ($18 million), Yodawy ($7.5 million), DrugStoc ($4.4 million) & RxAll ($3.15 million).

On a broad scale however, health & biotech start-ups accounted for only 8% of the $4.9 billion raised by tech start-ups across the continent, with fintech start-ups accounting for a staggering 62%.

2022 has kicked off with news of a major funding round for health-tech in Africa as mPharma raised $35 million in a Series D round. Participating investors include JAM FundUnboundLux CapitalSocial CapitalNovastarTO Ventures & Northstar.

There are other early signs of sustained funding for African health-tech as more healthcare-focused venture capital funds emerge. Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company (FDHIC) has announced a Catalyst Fund – an investor collective to enable individuals and corporate organizations back promising tech-enabled health technology start-ups on the continent. (FDHIC’s existing health-tech portfolio includes Helium HealthMdaas Global & Lifestores Pharmacy)

Crucially, we also see blended finance models as an emerging trend to watch: In Kenya, IMFact, a fintech firm that provides working capital financing to supply chain-focused enterprises, raised $3 million from FSD Africa. IMFact’s model serves as an alternative to traditional bank lending and can be further adapted to provide health-tech start-ups and providers with critical access to working capital.

Nigeria and Ghana are stepping up regulation of online pharmacy operations

A new regulatory framework for operations of online pharmacy players is set to come into effect this month in Nigeria. The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, the regulatory authority for pharmacies, held a stakeholder engagement meeting in December (Salient Advisory made a presentation at the event) to highlight key provisions in the newly approved regulatory document.

Ghana is taking a different approach to oversight for online pharmacy operations by launching a national e-pharmacy platform to serve as a central portal for online pharmacy operations. The platform will track, record and store transactions as well as allow users upload prescriptions, compare prices and get connected to pharmacies that can fulfill their orders. With the national platform also linked to Ghana’s Food & Drugs Authority, batch numbers of products sold by online pharmacies will be tracked in real time, ensuring that fake and substandard medication are not being distributed.

Innovators continue to drive access to healthcare through partnerships and expansion

In Kenya, Penda Health, a chain of outpatient health clinics, has partnered with Kasha to improve digital access to contraceptive care and products. The partnership will see Kasha list long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) and select short-acting methods on its digital platform, while Penda Health will provide counselling services to patients interested in such products.

Kenyan telemedicine start-up Zuri Health has launched operations in Senegal, through a partnership with Expresso Senegal, a telecoms provider. The partnership will allow Expresso subscribers access Zuri Health’s telemedicine service and consult with doctors via SMS.

Copia, a rural-focused e-commerce player operating in Kenya and Uganda, is aiming to grow its footprint across East Africa with planned expansions to Rwanda and Tanzania in 2022. Copia’s model powers e-commerce transactions in rural areas by allowing residents bypass internet access constraints and make purchases, including health products, through a network of agents.

Finally, in Nigeria, genomics research start-up 54gene has launched 7RiverLabs, a subsidiary providing precision diagnostics services to patients and healthcare providers. The subsidiary has launched with sample collection and test centers across Nigeria but is aiming for pan-African expansion through 2022. Given 54gene’s focus on genomics and molecular research and medicine, (the start-up launched with the aim of building Africa’s largest biobank), its diagnostics subsidiary will be able deliver faster analysis of samples, ensuring quicker diagnosis, treatment and better health outcomes.

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

Happy New Year!

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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