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Denys Bédarride
16 February 2022 Last update on Wednesday, February 16, 2022 At 4:32 PM

In Africa, digitalization is leading to significant changes in the traditional functioning of several strategic sectors. From trade to agriculture and education, there are a multitude of opportunities available to the various players thanks to technological innovations. We Are Tech reveals the potential of these transformations through several key sectors such as essential health.

According to the 2021 edition of the world health statistics of the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa has three doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants and ranks last for the rate of health coverage at the global level. In 12 years, the shortage of healthcare personnel has not improved much since the region had 2 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants in 2009. This statistic reflects the sad reality shared by several African countries where the healthcare system is still characterized by a lack of qualified personnel and an adequate technical platform. But in recent years, thanks to the fourth industrial revolution, a slew of initiatives has emerged led by start-ups in search of effective solutions for access to quality care on the continent.

AI, telemedicine, …

In Rwanda, Insightiv Technologies has developed a platform using advanced technology combining artificial intelligence and medical imaging to help radiologists “detect potentially fatal diseases more quickly”.

It should be noted that the use of artificial intelligence in the health system is already proving its worth on the continent, particularly in Tunisia where Saoussen Ayari, co-founder of AI Diagnosis Vision, explains that it helps to resolve delays and inaccuracies. in diagnoses essentially linked to “the unequal distribution of standard and specific radiological machines on Tunisian territory”.

The use of artificial intelligence in the health system is already proven on the continent

It is also aware of the impact that the multiplication and democratization of this type of solution can have on the level of well-being of populations in several countries on the continent, that the American federal organization The National Institutes of Health decided in 2021 to invest $74.5 million to support medical research based on AI and data analysis in Africa.

In Cameroon, the startup Waspito, launched by Jean Lobé Lobé, has developed a mobile telemedicine platform using geolocation. It puts patients in touch with doctors, hospitals and laboratories and facilitates making appointments for a consultation or collecting samples for analysis. The solution thus guarantees patients access to a health specialist and avoids long queues. Waspito, which wants to become the “Facebook of health” in Africa, also offers a platform for discussions between patients and practitioners for the sake of awareness and education. Patients can also talk to their doctors via video calls.

In Benin, the goMediCAL application offers a similar service, centered on making appointments with the doctor and teleconsultation. It also gives the possibility of making an appointment for a loved one and paying for the consultation. The application also has a function that reminds the patient of the times when taking medication, which he can also buy online by consulting a list of open pharmacies.

Even access to medicines is already facilitated by technology. In Rwanda, AFIAPHARMA has developed a web platform and a mobile application on which the patient can order the product he needs and have it delivered to his home.

A bubbling healthtech ecosystem

Somewhat timid in the past, the healthtech sector has seen a real transformation in 2020 and 2021 thanks to Covid-19 which has revealed its importance in the provision of health services, even in times of crisis. While African start-ups raised around $4.4 billion last year, more than double the funding in 2020, the share captured by those active in the health sector has also increased. It exceeded $300 million, or 8% of the total amount captured by startups in Africa, according to data relayed by Techpoint. A performance that represents three times the total funding obtained by the healthtech sector in 2020.

While African start-ups raised around $4.4 billion last year, more than double the funding in 2020, the share captured by those active in the health sector has also increased. It exceeded $300 million, or 8% of the total amount.

Better, this amount is higher than the total of the two previous years, which gives an idea of ​​the progress recorded in 24 months. While the healtech (and biotech) segment was not on the podium of the sectors most supported by investors two years ago, it now occupies second place, behind the unbeatable segment of financial technology companies (fintech) . The dynamism of this sector and its potential impact on development in Africa are undoubtedly some of the reasons that prompted the Novartis Foundation, in collaboration with the Norwegian Norrksen Foundation, to launch its HealthTech Hub Africa in Rwanda last year.

The incubator is located in the premises of Norrksen House in Kigali, where the Foundation wishes to devote $200 million to promote the emergence of the next African unicorns.

Democratize access to solutions

Although the number of digital healthcare delivery initiatives are mushrooming across Africa, many challenges remain to enable them to improve the lives of millions of people. The vast majority of current innovations are aimed primarily at a public accustomed to using the Internet and smartphones, on a continent where the mobile Internet penetration rate is still only 28%. For rural populations, this is a major obstacle. In addition, most healthtechs on the continent currently offer solutions based on proximity to already established health infrastructures, in urban areas and essentially private. Another obstacle to access to care in rural areas.

Facilitating the development of healthtech in Africa, to improve people’s access to care, also requires a better regulatory framework conducive to quality, secure services.

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