African health-tech innovators attract interest from global investors

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. | September 2023

Online Pharmacy in Africa: Regulatory Landscape and Opportunities for Action

Salient Advisory’s new report, Online Pharmacy in Africa: Regulatory Landscape and Opportunities for Action, highlights the status of regulatory frameworks that enable direct-to-consumer access to essential health commodities, including contraceptives, via online pharmacies across 15 African countries and four Asian comparator countries.

The report shows five of the assessed countries have published regulations and/or guidelines to govern online pharmacy operations. A key highlight is the establishment of a national-scale electronic pharmacy platform by the Ghanaian government to oversee and facilitate all online pharmacy transactions in the country. However, limitations on product dispensing, physical location requirements, and provider roles hinder the operations, impact, and growth of online pharmacies on the continent. Read the full report!

Investing in Innovation selects promising innovators for the 2023 cohort

Investing in Innovation, a market access support program for African health supply chain innovators, has selected 29 promising early to growth-stage innovators to participate in the second cohort of the program. The selected startups, from across 21 African countries, will receive $50,000 grants and access to market support to catalyze partnerships with donors, industry players, and governments. Investing in Innovation is sponsored by the Gates Foundation, CencoraMerck Sharp & Dohme, Microsoft, and Chemonics.

Innovators are growing through expansion, early-stage investment, and global recognition

Grinta, an Egyptian business-to-business pharmaceutical marketplace, has kicked off regional expansion plans with a move to Tanzania. The expansion follows its recent acquisition of Auto-Cure, and is part of its strategic plan to broaden its digital marketplace and health supply chain operations across and beyond Egypt.

SehaTech, an Egyptian health insurance startup, secured $850,000 in pre-seed funding from A15 and Beltone Venture Capital to accelerate its mission of improving healthcare access and affordability in Egypt. SehaTech is aiming to leverage its proprietary technology to digitize and automate interactions between insurers and healthcare providers.

Access Afya (Kenya), HelpMum Africa (Nigeria), and Rocket Health (Uganda) are among ten innovators selected to receive $25,000 and participate in the Chat for Impact Accelerator led by, WhatsApp, and The Agency Fund. The three innovators will also receive guidance to leverage the WhatsApp Business Platform to build chat tools for health services.

DrugStoc, a Nigeria-based supply chain procurement partner for health providers, was named winner of the 2023 Global Visa Everywhere Initiative–an open innovation program and competition for global start-ups. The award was in recognition of DrugStoc’s technology-driven approach to scaling efficient procurement of health products for clinics and pharmacies across Nigeria.

Economic headwinds are impacting major ecosystem innovators

mPharma, the Ghanaian health-tech startup with vast pharmacy operations across nine African countries, laid off 150 employees due to tightening macroeconomic conditions. The company says it intends to focus on its direct-to-consumer healthcare business arm, Mutti. mPharma’s mass layoffs underscore the impact of headwinds faced by healthcare businesses and closely follow the bankruptcy and closure of global telemedicine giant, Babylon Health.

One possible effect of these headwinds is the creation of new companies by experienced staff exiting established health startups: in Nigeria, Abasi Ene-Effiong, the former CEO of biotech startup 54Gene, has launched Syndicate Bio, a new ecosystem entrant seeking to advance inclusion in global genomics sciences and support local drug discovery and development. Ene-Obong exited 54gene last year amid a wave of mass layoffs at the company.

Recommended Read

Curious about the effectiveness of chatbot solutions in emergency and humanitarian contexts? This ICTworks piece shares valuable insights gained from the implementation of basic, mid-level, and AI-driven chatbot solutions in humanitarian initiatives, including practical applications, advantages, and challenges.

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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