Tapping into Africa’s healthcare supply chain opportunities

Monday, May 24th, 2021 00:00 |
Leveraging technology to ease the flow of essential medicines holds tremendous promise. Photo/Courtesy

Barry Silah @obel_barry

Healthcare consulting firm, Salient Advisory, has launched a health care report calling on donor agencies, governments and impact investors to accelerate the impact and scale of African health-tech innovators working in supply chain.

The report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and titled, “Innovations in Health Product Distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa,” sets out a series of actionable recommendations for global health actors.

As a result of Covid-19, innovative approaches to distributing medicines are growing.

The report engaged with 61 of these health-tech innovators; half of which are in Kenya and Uganda, including Rocket Health, MYDAWA, Maisha Meds, SASAdoctor and Afya Rekod. 

Data can now reveal a consistent expansion in the ecosystem of tech-enabled supply chain companies within sub-Saharan Africa, primarily driven by companies in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

The findings show a more than 100 per cent increase in technology-enabled business models since 2018, as these companies work to change how healthcare products are distributed.

Of the companies surveyed, 53 per cent reported hoping to support the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines by providing trusted information, track-and-trace services, supporting last-mile delivery and aiding in vaccine administration.

Propelled by Covid-19, businesses that pair telemedicine with product delivery are the most common offerings among new entrants.

For the first time, the number of innovators that report operating in both urban and rural areas (49 per cent) surpassed those operating exclusively in urban areas (48 per cent), driving scale, impact and profitability.

The report calls for more to be done to support, nurture, fund and provide infrastructure access to innovators across Africa who can have a positive and impactful effect on the healthcare systems.

Building on these challenges, Salient’s key recommendations for global health actors, therefore, include: Reshaping investment ecosystems to ensure more equitable funding and professionalised support is accessible to high-potential African founders, including female founders and innovators in francophone Africa.

Subsidised products

Catalysing partnerships between the innovators, and non-governmental organisations, industry and governments are to enable the distribution of publicly subsidised products through locally-grown, tech-driven platforms, especially in rural areas.

Increasing access to affordable working capital and mechanisms to enable innovators to offer low-cost onward lending to their customers has been captured in the report as key. 

Speaking on the launch of the report, Malyse Uwase, Senior Consultant at Salient commented: “Cutting-edge tech innovators in East Africa are developing solutions to help transform the delivery of health information, products and services.

As innovators, support essential health services and the Covid-19 response, partnerships with health actors, governments, donors and regulators will be critical.”

Cheikh Oumar Seydi, Director, Africa, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also commented: “The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in Africa and in response governments, the private sector, donors, and health workers have stepped up.”

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