According to research from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst in the world. Most of the region lacks the proper infrastructure to deliver efficient healthcare. Moreso, few countries are able to spend the $34 to $40 a year per person that the World Health Organization considers the minimum for basic health care.
According to Digest Africa data, at least 100 healthcare startups across Africa have recognized the gap and gone ahead to launch solutions that can bridge it. Some of the areas these startups are focused on include; counterfeit drugs, lack of access to affordable healthcare services, etc.
In this article, we take a look at nine African startups that are changing and improving the dire state of the healthcare industry across Africa and have gone ahead to raise at least $1 million in venture funding. (Note: We refer to the sector healthcare and pharma as healthcare. We only consider VC funding).
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Ghanaian healthcare startup mPharma was founded in 2013 by Daniel Shoukimas, Gregory Rockson, and James Finucane. The startup operates as a prescription drug manager for healthcare providers but also designs drug benefits plans for the payers who might not be able to afford the high costs. mPharma is currently present in Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia as well as Kenya. To the East African market, they acquired one of Kenya’s largest chain of pharmaceutical stores Haltons after raising their $12 million Series B in March 2019. Overall, mPharma has raised a total of $23.6 million in venture funding across three different funding rounds from a set of investors including 4DX, Gold Palm Investments, Breyer Capital, Olive Tree Ventures and Social Capital. The startup is the most funded healthcare venture across the African continent.
Cairo-based healthcare startup Vezeeta operates a digital healthcare platform that connects patients with healthcare providers and health services. Founded in 2012 by Ahmed Badr and Amir Barsoum, the startup has now raised a total of $23.5 million in venture funding from 3 rounds of funding involving notable investors like BECO Capital, Silicon Badia, and Vostok New Ventures. At that amount, Vezeeta ranks among the most funded startups in Egypt, a list that ride-hailing venture Swvl tops at over $80.5 million in total venture funding raised to date.
In January this year, 54gene was among the eight Africa-focused startups selected to participate in Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 batch. The Nigerian healthcare startup 54gene offers a genetics testing platform that primarily focuses on unlocking the African genome to fuel genetic research and development. Based in Lagos, Nigeria and founded in 2019 by Abasi Ene-Obong, Damilola Oni, Gatumi Aliyu, and Ogochukwu Francis Osifo, the startup raised $4.5 million in what appears to be one of the continent’s biggest seed rounds. Apart from YC, 54gene counts Fifty Years, Better Ventures and KdT Ventures among its notable investors.
4. MyDawa [$3M]
In May this year, online pharmacy Mydawa announced that it had received $3 million in a Series A round from the Africa HealthCare Master Fund by the Asia Africa Investment and Consulting firm. The Kenyan healthcare startup, founded in 2017 by Neil O’Leary, has previously raised $5 million in a Private Equity round from Irish PE firm Ion Equity.
HearX is a healthcare startup based in Pretoria, South Africa, that provides affordable access to hearing care using clinically validated smartphone hearing test digital solutions. Founded in 2015 by De Wet Swanepoel and Herman Myburgh, the healthcare venture has so far raised total venture funding of $2.2 million that came in a seed round from a couple of international investors. The startup also locked in $500,000 in grant funding.
Nawah Scientific operates research facilities through which it receives experiment requests online and delivers the results on the platform. The startup describes itself as “the first, private, multidisciplinary research in Egypt catering for natural and medical sciences.” Based in Cairo, Egypt, and founded by Omar Sakr in 2014, they raised $1.9 million across 3 rounds from 500 Startups, Endure Capital among other investors.
Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Medsaf is a medication supply chain solution for hospitals and pharmacies. Founded in 2017 by Vivian Nwakah, the platform gets medications directly from leading local and foreign manufacturers and delivers them to hospitals and pharmacies. According to the submissions from the startup to Digest Africa, they have now raised $1.5 million in total funding from investors including Lateral Capital. This makes Vivian one of the few black female founders that have been able to raise venture funding of at least $1 million. Because, according to a recent study, there are only 34 black women globally that have done so and she is one of them.
MDaaS offers diagnostic and primary healthcare facilities through its medical equipment. According to their website, they are building “Africa's largest network of diagnostic and primary care facilities to provide convenient, high-quality, and affordable healthcare for the continent's next billion”. Founded in 2016 by Genevieve Barnard and Oluwasoga Oni in Nigeria, MDaaS has now raised $1.28 million, majority of which came through their 2019 Seed round that Consonance Investment Managers led with participation from FINCA Ventures, Ventures Platform, and Techstars Ventures. The startup has also previously received investment from Ventures Platform and Techstars, where it participated in its accelerator.
Uganda-based Neopenda, whose focus is building medical devices aimed at improving newborn health within vulnerable populations, has raised a total of $1.1 million in funding. It was founded in 2015 by Columbia University alumni biomedical engineers Sona Shah and Teresa Cauvel. Neopenda's first product is a wearable biometric monitoring device that continuously measures a newborn's vital signs, currently being validated in clinical trials in Uganda. Their most recent $1.04 million seed round was led by Axel Johnson Inc, with participation from SUNU Capital and several angels, and have also participated in three accelerators, Techstars, MassChallenge, and Relevant Health.