The development of Africa’s health tech industry was precipitated by the lack of access to health care delivery in the continent.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the lack of access to medicine is the biggest cause of death for children under the age of 5.
Overall, less than 50% of the African population has access to modern healthcare, the continent has access to 3 % of the world’s health workers, and shares in 24 % of the global disease burden.
The state of affairs has been worsened by inadequate expenditure into the sector as a total of GDP – at 10 % on average, worker shortage – at an average 2.3 physicians per 1000 patients, changing medical needs, and corruption in public health systems.
Healthtech startups in Africa are building technical infrastructure, in a sector that had been slow to evolve in the past.
Participants range from global businesses to locally home-grown startups with applications ranging from various areas of medicine and public health.
Current market offerings include patient data management – electronic health records, diagnostics, devices, e-pharmacies, remote health care services – telemedicine, health information – mHealth, IoT healthcare, femtech, eLearning, aggregators, and genomics in BioTechnology.
Each segment is evolving individually based on underlying forces. Femtech, which is relatively nascent in Africa, is expected to be driven by cultural perceptions and stigma around fertility and contraception which promote private use of such technologies.
These applications of digital technology indicate the potential for scale-up in African countries.
The largest markets by players and diversification of health tech services include Morocco and Egypt in North Africa, and South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Rwanda in the sub-Saharan region.
Due to its dependability on mobile technology and internet connectivity, the main challenges impeding the growth of health tech in Africa is the lack of access to technology for the larger population, which limits the interoperability of most startup services, and the lack of innovator friendly growth capital to help startups scale.
While funding into the industry increased five folds over a year period, to USD 74.9 Mn raised in 2019, the sector now reports funding in excess of USD 69 Million, just before the close of H1 2020. Leading segments include telemedicine and electronic health records.
With the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, innovative startups in the health tech industry have come forward to provide essential services lacking in the health care value chain.
Among the most recent developments in respect to the crisis include; the rise of telemedicine aimed at improving efficiency and connectivity between healthcare providers and patients, increased emergency response services, the use of biotechnology in Corona Virus testing, among other locally developed health tech solutions.
Segments such as peer eLearning, whose interventions have mainly been cul-de-sac pilots with termination after the pilot phase, are expected to thrive in the current economic and health environment.