Forum fetes 5 East African healthcare startups picked for HGS Accelerator




The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) held an event to congratulate 5 innovative start-ups shaping East Africa’s healthcare sector. The forum also announced a publication on healthcare entrepreneurship in Africa and the opening of applications for next year’s Accelerator cohort.

Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki said:” Infectious diseases remain a great threat to Africa’s aspiration to achieve its 2063 developmental blueprint: Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa has learned how fragile international cooperation can be when the world is collectively threatened and challenged by a common disease threat. Hence the need to strengthen the continent’s epidemic preparedness and response by fostering collaborative partnerships on having Home-Grown Solutions Accelerator for Pandemic Resilience that aims to strengthen Africa’s ability to respond to future disease outbreaks.”

Earlier this year, the initiative was successfully piloted in East Africa, with its first cohort of Home Grown Solutions consisting of Access Afya, Africa Healthcare Network, Damu Sasa, MSCAN and Revital Healthcare.

During the event, Mr. Hajime Iwama, Chief Representative, JICA Kenya Office said: “Health, as a development issue, continues to have a significant impact on the economic and social security of countries and regions across Africa. Africa’s underlying burden of endemic diseases is the largest in the world. JICA values the concept of the Home-Grown Solutions (HGS) Accelerator as it tries to amplify the development impact through supporting private sector in the healthcare sector. JICA will continue to support AUDA-NEPAD for leading Africa’s development with Africa’s own solutions and ownership.”

According to Takeshi Oikawa, the MD and Partner, BCG: ”One of the greatest lessons learned by Africa is the urgent need to invest in its healthcare systems as a critical instrument to secure its economic development as it implements flagship projects of Agenda 2063. To achieve this, there is need for increasing access to early stage, blended and working capital, improving networking opportunities for collaboration and government access, finding innovative ways to deliver business or technical support and clarifying and streamlining regulatory, procurement and trade processes as highlighted in the Joint publication by AUDA-NEPAD & BCG on barriers to healthcare entrepreneurship in Africa.”

Home Grown Solutions (HGS) Accelerator for Pandemic Resilience has built a supporting network that includes  World Food Programme, Africa CDC, GIZ, Rwandan Development Board, CSIR, AAIC, Ecobank Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, World Health Organization, UNIDO, Afreximbank and others.

After a competitive selection process in the first quarter of 2021, 5 growing East African healthcare companies were chosen to form the pilot cohort of the Accelerator. They include:

Access Afya [video] is a Kenya-based start-up that solves for unavailable, unaffordable, and low-quality healthcare for people living in informal urban settlements through a digital and physical franchise primary healthcare model. With support of the Accelerator, Access Afya has formalized their franchising model, doubled the number of franchises, turned around profitability for all but one and has become fully prepared to start raising Pre-Series A funding round to continue to scale, remaining on track to serve 1M patients in 2023.

Africa Healthcare Network [video] is the first and largest dialysis chain across Sub-Saharan Africa, providing high-quality dialysis at in-hospital dialysis clinics in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya at affordable cost. With technical support of the Accelerator, AHN has started to update its internal operating model and is professionalizing its systems & processes. Both are key to continue their impressive growth, which even in the last half year, has seen staff numbers rise by 25% and 60 more patients treated on dialysis daily.

Damu Sasa [video] is a Kenyan end-to-end cloud-based blood services information provider that facilitates timely and equitable access to safe blood for transfusion and is already live in over 130 transfusing facilities, with 35,000+ registered donors. With support from the Accelerator, Damu Sasa has continued to formalize multiple aspects of their business and has grown committed payments 5-fold in preparation for an impending Seed round raise, whilst also having been introduced to public and private players in neighboring countries in preparation for international expansion.

MSCAN [video] is a Ugandan social enterprise which provides mothers in low-resource settings with access to life-saving ultrasound services through their own and locally optimized ultrasound devices, trainings for midwives & clinicians, and various deployment models. The 5 versions of its device are in use in over 15 clinics across the country, serving communities like on islands in Lake Victoria that have not historically had access to ultrasound services. With support from the Accelerator, MSCAN has refined its value proposition, business models and fund-raising strategy.

Revital Healthcare [video] is a Kenya-based manufacturer of medical consumable devices that exports a growing catalog of products including syringes and PPE to across 20+ countries worldwide, supplying the likes of UNICEF and WHO, but also governments and private sector players, with 100s of millions of critical medical supplies yearly. With support of the Accelerator, Revital has started manufacturing Covid-19 rapid antigen test and raising funds to expand capacity to meet increased demand. And indeed, Revital has recently raised over $3M from equity investors and $4M in grants from the Gates Foundation, whilst having passed the milestone of being able to manufacture over one billion medical consumables yearly and securing a contract to provide UNICEF with 50 million 2ml syringes and 100% of its 0.5ml syringe production for 2022. Revital’s contribution towards Africa’s ‘build back better’ was mentioned in H.E. Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta’s State of the Nation Address 2021.

Although local healthcare startups in Africa still have obstacles to overcome – steps to climb before a real chance of success – there are signs everywhere of significant changes afoot that could alter the business environment for entrepreneurs on the continent in ways that would have been difficult to imagine just a decade or so ago. Everything from real gains in expertise, new markets opening up, and additional and creative funding and investment schemes, to credible attempts to tear down regulatory barriers are moving in the direction of healthcare entrepreneurs. Their job now is to take advantage of the opportunity.

Call for applications to the Accelerator’s 2022 cohort

The Home Grown Solutions (HGS) Accelerator for Pandemic Resilience will continue its work in 2022 with a second cohort, with the call for applications open from now until January 31, 2022. Healthcare companies from across the continent that meet the required application criteria are urged to apply to this second cohort.

Companies are requested to apply for the Accelerator, with deadline set on the 31, January 2022. After the submission deadline, shortlisted companies will be asked to provide references of investors and customers and additional high-level information on their finances during February 2022. Final decision making will happen in March 2022, with Acceleration support definition and delivery to occur between April and October 2022.

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