Healthcare in Africa, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, is unquestionably inadequate, with few countries able to spend the $34 to $40 per person per year that the World Health Organization considers the minimum for basic health care. Despite widespread poverty, an IFC analysis indicates that out-of-pocket payments from individuals fund an astounding 50% of the region’s health expenditure. Further worsening the situation, in many rural communities and poor urban slums in Africa today, the private sector is sometimes the only option for health care. In the continent, a poor mom is more likely to take her sick child to a private hospital or clinic as compared to a public health facility.
As Africa’s population expands, so will the demand for high-quality, low-cost healthcare. Good governance will be critical in increasing financial investments in the construction of various, devolved, resilient data sources, as well as the collecting of reliable and timely data. African governments must be proactive in increasing investments in and taking responsibility for local funding projects to establish reliable information systems and educate health staff in order to achieve sustainable health. According to a recent research by The African Academy of Sciences on Prioritising Health Systems to Achieve SDGs in Africa, African countries have a unique chance to accomplish SDG 3 by enhancing their health information systems and human resources for health.
Even as the African health-care system struggles with a lack of resources and money, innovative uses of technology open up new avenues for expanding access to medical treatment. Health Technology in Africa is primed for tremendous expansion as a result of advancements prompted by the pandemic. In 2020 alone, more than 40 health-tech start-ups on the continent got series A funding. Disrupt Africa also reported the launch of the i3 Program in June 2022, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sponsored by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, AUDA-NEPAD, and AmerisourceBergen and aimed to invest in Africa’s most promising early growth-stage startups in health care supply chains. The first 30 selected hailed from 14 countries across Africa. Nearly 50 per cent of the startups were women-led, and 30 per cent recorded operations in Francophone Africa.
However, in order for health-tech startups to grow, entrepreneurs must examine previous triumphs and failures to understand what works and what does not in the African setting. The benefit of African health-tech start-ups is that they can scale quickly because the continent’s health-care systems frequently encounter comparable difficulties. A successful project in one country can easily be replicated in many more. Gavi – The Vaccine Alliance recently celebrated the telehealth pioneer mPharma, founded in Ghana, which just secured financing to establish 100 virtual clinics in seven new markets. African countries must adopt and sustain policies that foster health-tech innovation in order to encourage this type of innovation and growth. Health ministries in Africa should, in turn, use their platforms to publicize the work that is being done.
WellaHealth in Nigeria is a wonderful example of a company making waves in the health tech sector. WellaHealth was founded on the revelation that many Africans pay out-of-pocket costs for common tropical illnesses, which are the leading cause of mortality in nearly all 54 African nations. WellaHealth, which serves the general population of Nigeria, offers micro-insurance plans that start at just less than a dollar per month. The insurance plans cover common ailments including malaria, upper respiratory tract infections, and viral infections, as well as medications to treat them, through point-of-care testing at WellaHealth’s network of 1200 local pharmacies. Patients do not need cash at the point of care, and claims are processed immediately.
Telemedicine consultations, chronic illness screening, prescription discounts, and payback of up to USD220 to cover hospital expenditures are all available to plan subscribers. Because the public health system in Nigeria is underfunded, many patients seek care in private clinics, which are generally more expensive than they can afford. In essence, WellaHealth solved a notable issue by building a platform through which even a Nigerian from a low-income household can obtain medical services without incurring out-of-pocket healthcare charges. WellaHealth intends to largely reduce the rate of self-medication in Nigeria, and provide more individuals with access to quality healthcare services.
Other organizations competing with WellaHealth include Turaco and Fleri. Turaco, a micro-insurtech business founded in Kenya in 2018, is transforming healthcare funding in emerging economies. They offer low-income earners simple, affordable health and life insurance through partnerships with prominent businesses in Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. Their purpose is to serve as a safety net, relieving people of the stress of financial hardship due to illness. The latter is a health insurance marketplace dedicated to assisting immigrants in protecting the ones they care about. Their innovative business concept offers an alternative to sending money home for medical expenditures. Immigrants can acquire health insurance policies for their loved ones on their marketplace for as little as $50 per month. Fleri offers high-quality, low-cost health insurance plans through partnerships with the leading health insurers, both locally and worldwide.
The future of healthcare in Africa is dependent on innovation. Adoption of modern technology has the potential to increase health literacy and access to care for all Africans. Vezeeta, an online platform for medical appointment booking and consultation in Egypt for example, is just one of many health tech startups in Africa. Slightly different from the former, this platform offers data management and analytical solutions for appointments and clinic performance monitoring, as well as online medical reports for patients. The company is now focused on providing interactive communication features between doctor and patient during treatment and follow-up periods via text messages, reminders, and conversation sessions about their test findings and drug side effects.
The purpose of health tech is to employ technology to provide health care to people more quickly, cheaply, and easily, while also accelerating the development of medical products. Because of the digital age, increased mobile usage and internet access throughout Africa, the likelihood of consumers accepting modern health technology development is fairly high. A certain prediction is that people will rather adopt this technology approach than reject it. This could result in a rapid expansion of health-tech care across the continent. The African health tech sector is active, ever-changing, and at the forefront of innovation. Because healthcare continues to present new opportunities, advancements made today are crucial for tomorrow’s healthcare.