Innovate for Life
Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa based international Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) currently running programs in over 35 countries in Africa with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners to increase sustainable health access in Africa.
In May 2017, Amref Health Africa launched an ambitious initiative: Innovate for Life (I4L). I4L supports entrepreneurs in the development of innovative, sustainable and scalable solutions for a healthy Africa. I4L specifically focuses on the ‘missing middle’ – a growing community of entrepreneurs whose enterprises are too large for microcredit, but too small for traditional commercial investors.
Strengthening capacity building among health-tech entrepreneurs in Africa
An increasing number of African countries combine young populations with political stability, economic growth and robust internet infrastructure—ideal conditions for creating new markets and piquing investor interest. But the challenges for health entrepreneurs include highly regulated healthcare systems, ongoing health challenges, burgeoning populations and investor biases towards energy and agriculture. Innovative for Life (I4L), Amref Health Africa’s health tech accelerator targets this gap by bringing 60 years of healthcare knowledge and deep local and international networks offering dedicated support to entrepreneurs to accelerate Africa’s progress.
Acting as the “missing middle”, the I4L program combines knowledge-sharing and in-person mentorship with expertise, networks, access to funding and business coaching from an experienced fund management organization. In 2019, after a 2-cohort cycle, they redesigned I4L with help from Accenture Development Partnerships and Metta, a Kenyan entrepreneur community, to focus on creating strong strategic partnerships between the entrepreneurs and Amref country platforms, and moving to demand-driven innovations within designated Amref countries.
Beneficiary group: Top 6 in 2018-19: 2 female and 4 male entrepreneurs
– The 2018-2019 cohort: Ethiopia, Kenya
– The 2018-2019 cohort: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya
– The 2020 cohort: focus on Kenya and Ethiopia.
- For health innovators: Improved regional and technical soundness, improved capacity to scale in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), strengthened strategic partnerships, expansion of health enterprises in SSA
- For Amref: Increased innovation capacity, strengthened in SSA, increased access to funding for programs, improved efficacy of programs
- 35 applications received
- Final intensive week held in March in Rwanda, in combination with Amref’s Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC)
- Main round of selection by a business panel from Amref Enterprises, Grassroots Business Fund, Accenture, The Dutch Development Bank FMO, Flint Atlantic etc.
- Developing at least one shared-value partnership between an enterprise and Amref.
- Leveraging networks built with other enterprise support organizations, donors, and health programming partners.
- Continuing to engage I4L program alumni.
- Measuring long-term outcomes and impact areas.
- Supporting thought leadership on accelerating innovators for health impact in SSA.
The first accelerator cohort consisted of 6 entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya who attended intensive training weeks in Sep and Nov 2017 on health- and business-related topics. They were given networking opportunities with Kenyan entrepreneurs, investors, the Kenyan Minister of Health, Elsevier and Amref. The top 3 entrepreneurs selected were:
- Omomi: an online community app for young mothers to monitor and respond to the health challenges of children under five. It now has over 30,000 users.
- Mahauty Health Solutions: a product line of preservative free, nutritionally balanced foods for children. It also connects over 8.000 mothers via social media and provides regular nutritional advisory sessions using Facebook Live.
- Usalama: an emergency services app connecting users to seven emergency service providers and 5400 downloads.
The second cohort gathered six other entrepreneurs carefully selected out of over 300 applications from all over sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly to the first cohort, they were also given networking opportunities with different stakeholders, including MOH, Ruiru IV Hospital, GSK, Virtual City and Oracle. The top 6 entrepreneurs selected were:
- Seun Sangoleye, founder of Baby Grubz. A social enterprise that manufactures and distributes baby food in Nigeria, and other West African countries.
- Virtue Oboro, founder of Tiny Hearts Technology. A medical manufacturing company that produces the “Crib A glow” Phototherapy Unit. A device used for the treatment of neonatal jaundice in newborn babies.
- Paul Mugambi from Kenya of Baobab Circle. He is part of the team that has developed Africa’s first, low cost diabetes and hypertension mobile app.
- Jinit Shah, the man behind Ujuzi Fursa Africa. The venture is a workforce development center offering training on caregiving. It also deploys, employs and outsources certified caregivers to hospitals, retirement homes, and individual homes who require dedicated elderly care.
- Joel Mukasa, founder of Joelex. The enterprise makes water and sanitation accessible and affordable for the urban poor in Uganda by building and operating toilets and showers. They safely dispose the collected waste by turning it into cleaner-burning charcoal briquettes used as cooking energy within slums and markets.
- And finally Stuart Nyakatswau from Zimbabwe, founder of Wastinnova. The company aims to decrease biohazard waste disposal from health-care and research centers and medical laboratories. They increase recycling through environmentally sustainable methods.
The third cohort gathered a cohort of 4 entrepreneurs carefully selected out of over a great number applications from all over sub-Saharan Africa. The top 4 entrepreneurs selected were:
- Michael Tariku, from Shayashone PLC: Shayashone (SYS) is a private limited company engaged in agricultural commercialization and supply chain development for social impact products, agribusiness advisory, and consultancy and import of industrial raw materials and manufacturing.
- Dahabo Adi Galgallo from Strategies for Northern Development: Strategies for Northern Development (SND) provides an integrated maternal and child mobile health care service for pastoralist women who are unable to access pre/postnatal services, by utilizing an improvised, culturally and socially acceptable Global Positioning System (GPS) ornamental pieces in form of bracelets.
- Nebiyat Demeke Fiseha from Rohobot Nursing Service
Established in 2017, Rohobot is a home-based health care service that strives to create a suitable environment for chronic and elderly people in Ethiopia and Africa. The company provides home-based health care services to elderly people living with chronic illnesses, to help them attain the highest level of independence by offering them support and their families.
- Ebby Weyime from The Grace Cup: The Grace Cup promotes and sells reusable menstrual cups and cloth pads since 2017. The company has so far worked with over 2,000 girls and boys across Kenya training them on menstrual hygiene.
Read more about the partnership
On the AMREF news room: “New Investment Fund for African Entrepreneurs in Health care” & “Innovate for Life Fund 2018 Cohort“