Across Africa, health supply chains face immense burdens, leaving most citizens forced to seek medications from private companies. However, the continent’s fragmented manufacturing and distribution networks impact drug availability, pricing, and quality.
Now, African governments are collaborating with tech innovators to optimise supply chains through digitisation, aiming to expand access to quality healthcare.
Last year, Salient Advisory surveyed over 80 African companies providing digital health supply chain solutions. This year, Salient broadened its research across 54 countries and 350 startups, tracking how they leverage technology to improve supply chain efficiencies.
A key finding shows that 11 African governments have partnered with around 50 tech-focused startups, adopting their inventory management, ordering, and delivery solutions within public health systems.
These partnerships aim to minimise wastage, optimise stock, and gain real-time visibility into demand and consumption patterns. In Kenya, county governments utilise local startup Maisha Meds’ inventory management platform within public clinics.
By monitoring stock levels, facilities can order just enough while avoiding expired products. Salient recommends donors support trade financing mechanisms so young startups can fulfil large government orders, enabling them to scale while improving public health systems.
The research highlights how grants remain essential for nurturing inclusive innovation ecosystems, as female founders still face unequal access to equity financing. Last year’s launch of the $7 million Investing in Innovation (I3) fund has provided 31 health tech startups with critical early grants, nearly half women-led. Looking ahead, governments display significant interest in adopting emerging tech, though partnerships remain in the early stages.
Successful adoption will boost startups’ growth while enhancing medicine access and health outcomes. However, Salient notes that as startups mature, they must expand beyond serving consumers and work with larger institutional partners like governments. The I3 program strives to connect young startups with the public sector to facilitate this growth.
Early partnerships between African governments and innovators exemplify the potential for technology to solve systemic healthcare supply issues. With supportive policies and financing, tech-enabled solutions can ensure life-saving medications reach all citizens, especially remote and underserved communities.
But concerted efforts are still needed to nurture inclusive innovation ecosystems and scale promising startups. Stronger public-private collaboration will be key to realising the full promise of digitally optimised health supply chains across Africa