Africa is a tangled web of insufficient resources and underdevelopment.
Although life expectancy is increasing across the globe, particularly in the developed world, many African countries still struggle with their populations’ lives being affected by communicable and other non-communicable diseases that can be prevented or curable. A decade ago, 1.6 millions Africans were dying from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Many attempts have been made by stakeholders and decision-makers from the health sector to improve Africa’s healthcare. All the advice and opinions shared over the years boil down into this: “Driving positive healthcare outcomes on the continent requires a certain amount of investment.” The World Health Organisation noted that strong financing structures are essential for achieving universal healthcare coverage (UHC). Finance structures are income streams. They include taxes, private insurance, donations, as well as out-of-pocket payments.
The good news is that Africa is already at the forefront when it comes to investment opportunities. Over $4.77 Billion was invested last year in African startups. However, startups in the healthcare sector did not attract as much investment than other sectors such as fintech. In 2021, approximately 479 companies in the health sector received $379.6 millions, compared with the $90million 180 companies received for 2020.
Health sector market drivers
Innovations in Africa’s health sector could be based on certain drivers. This will result in more funding for the sector and a transformation of Africa’s healthcare system. These market drivers include the COVID-19 pandemic and population needs.
1. Pandemic COVID-19
This is a key driver for innovation on the continent. It also helped accelerate the transition to technology in healthcare. Patients needed to be in touch with their providers. Facilities needed to remain profitable. Both sides turned to technology. This led to a high adoption of telemedicine (or even telehealth). Uganda, for example, has invested in telemedicine apps. More healthtech startups now offer telemedicine services.
Even though the pandemic is now over, digital adoption has increased across the continent. The only thing that decision-makers and governing bodies can do to support innovators is to create regulations. COVID-19 will be the driving force behind how the industry operates.
2. Population needs
Some people need to take certain medications all the time. They could be elderly, disabled, or have a medical condition. These people are all part of our community and need to be taken care of. It’s not surprising that startups offering medication management services such as Famasi now have five major cities in Nigeria.
Customers are changing their attitudes towards products and services. They prefer solutions that offer personalized, transparent and accessible experiences that allow them to create quality experiences. Dooctora has succeeded in this by bringing more customers to their network of practitioners and facilities.
4. Data aggregation and analytics
Healthcare interoperability gaps can be bridged by using the power of data-driven ecosystems. This will boost market activity, make payers and providers comply with new data-sharing requirements, strengthen healthcare systems by providing insight and showing providers the clinical and financial impacts at the point of care. Helium Health has been a well-respected startup in this sector.
5. Big tech’s involvement
Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Microsoft are all interested in healthcare. They show commitment by building products, partnering with the sector, and investing in it.
What does this mean to tech entrepreneurs and the health tech industry?
Tech founders in healthcare have one goal: To secure funding, scale up and succeed. They need to identify the problem, understand the market, and then pilot their solutions. This will help them shape the future healthcare in Africa. Because universal healthcare coverage in Africa is possible.
This is a guest post by Lauretta Hamza . She founded, co-owns and leads project/product development at Scribble , a Nigerian-Australian brand creating products and offering services to spur innovation within the creator economy. Lauretta currently works with Ingressive as a communication specialist.