In recent years, African heathtech has recorded impressive growth, as the majority of Africans rely on under-funded public health facilities while a small minority have access to well-funded, quality private health care.
It is a reality that across much of Africa, health systems suffer from serious inefficiencies and are widely inaccessible, and this was exasperated by the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to traditional healthcare providers adopting new tech products such as virtual healthcare platforms, telemedicine, drones, big data analytics, wearables, and information management to improve overall health outcomes.
More than 40 heathtech start-ups on the continent received series A funding in 2020 alone.
Almost a year ago, the Moroccan consulting firm Southbridge A&I and its Canadian partner Salient Advisory published a joint report on the financing challenges of healthcare delivery companies in Africa. They proposed two continental mechanisms to better direct international funding to African startups and to provide pooled working capital solutions in Africa.
Recently, Southbridge A&I, Salient Advisory and SCIDaR launched the Investing in Innovation (i3) Program, implementing the first recommendation of this report, which will be headed by Startupbootcamp AfriTech (SBC), as the South African Implementation Partner.
Jocelyn Nyaguse, marketing and storytelling lead at Startupbootcamp AfriTech, says: “Healthtech innovations are on the rise in Africa, as the continent is served by only 2% of the world’s healthcare professionals. Entrepreneurs are constantly finding solutions that are aligned with Sustainable Development Goals to empower the lives of Africans, and programs such as the i3 are a perfect fit for scaling these innovative solutions that better the lives of ordinary people.
“Earlier in June, statistics from the Global Startup Awards Africa (GSA) Summit revealed that 11% of all the 2021 GSA winners came from healthtech. Globally, governments are actively seeking and embracing these new opportunities to improve the quality, reach and efficiency of health. Therefore, we are honoured to be selected as industry enablers that will improve the state of South Africa’s healthcare system,” Nyaguse adds.
As the most experienced, African-based and lead multi-corporate-backed tech accelerator that specializes in unlocking and growing pan-African tech opportunities, SBC enables platforms to provide mentorship and skills training for startups to ensure they can scale. SBC supports startups across Africa, including entrepreneurs in the healthtech space.
The i3 program is a $7-million pan-African program designed to support 30 companies per year over two years, specialising in healthtech and the supply chain in Africa. I3 aims to identify early-stage or growth-stage innovators across the continent that can make a tangible impact on public health, whether in terms of availability, accessibility, quality or transparency of health supply chains. These companies, selected by four leading accelerators across the continent, will be eligible for a systematic grant of $50 000 as well as a market access program through events organised across the continent.
The ambitious program is sponsored by partners who will be heavily involved throughout the program. These include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the African Union Development Agency, the World Health Organization AFRO, and two major players in the pharmaceutical industry: the Merck Group and AmerisourceBergen.
Cheikh Oumar Seydi, director: Africa, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, comments: “African health innovators have shown increasing capacity to leverage technology to optimize supply chains and advance access to medicines. Such local innovations have the potential to change how supply chains and health systems function – and it is time to support them. We are pleased to be collaborating with strong global and continental partners to jointly strengthen African health systems and accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.”
Remi Adeseun, director of Salient Advisory, says: “There has been considerable progress over the past year as supply chain innovations work to enhance access to quality medicines. Our report provides investors, donors, and governments with actionable recommendations on engagement strategies to advance companies’ growth and impact. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and along with our esteemed partners, we are excited to be launching the Investing in Innovation program to connect promising companies to customers who can power their impact and scale.”
South African healthtech startups are encouraged to leverage opportunities by applying for the i3 program to receive business support that will enable their businesses to scale.
Applications for the first cohort of 30 companies are now open and will close on 14 August. With the program officially launching on 19 September 2022, start-ups working in health product distribution across Africa are invited to apply at https://bit.ly/3bUPgBN.