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Africa’s health-tech startups come to the fore amid global pandemic

In essence, the continent’s health-focused startups have not been in the limelight, even as the past few years have witnessed an explosion in Africa’s tech ecosystem.

Africa health tech startups fighting Covid-19
Helium Health is one of the many health-tech startups that have transformed healthcare with technology. The startup's founders Dimeji Sofowora, Tito Ovia, and Adegoke Olubusi
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The coronavirus pandemic that has hurt the global economy and stretched healthcare systems remains the world’s biggest concern at the moment.

In Africa, the worst might just be around the corner, with worry that the continent’s healthcare systems cannot handle a full-blown crisis.

So, African governments have rushed to secure loans from the World Bank and IMF to help boost their public health sector. All efforts are to equip a sector so often neglected. But amongst all the confusion and scramble, one of the most noticeable observations has been the rise of African health-tech startups.

The pandemic is spotlighting African health-tech, an area that has received relatively meager funding compared to fintech and e-commerce. For example, of $1.2 billion+ African startups raised in funding in 2019, only 5% or $74.9 million went to health-tech startups. Fintech startups accounted for 50%.

In essence, the continent’s health-focused startups have not been in the limelight, even as the past few years have witnessed an explosion in Africa’s tech ecosystem.

But 2020, and the unfortunate case of the pandemic, is changing fortune for some of the top health-tech startups. Over $70 million in funding has already been secured so far, putting the sector on course to obliterate last year’s $74.9 million.

Several health tech startups on the frontline against COID-19

Just this week, Nigeria’s Helium Health raised $10 million in its series A funding round. The startup offers its product in Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia. Its telemedicine platform is now in use at “hundreds of hospitals.”

Other startups to come to the fore include Pan-African genomics research firm 54gene that raised $15 million earlier in April.  The startup launched mobile testing laboratories for COVID-19 and struck a partnership with Dangote Foundation that has them equip a testing lab in Nigeria’s Kano region.

In Ghana, mPharma, Redbird, and Zipline have all come to the fore as has Cameroon’s OuiCare. Kenya’s Ilara Health and Recomed from South Africa are all showing that with added investments, health-tech startups can be critical players in shaping the future of Africa’s healthcare sector.

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