Innovate for Life
An increasing number of African countries combine young populations with political stability, economic growth and robust internet infrastructure—all of which are ideal conditions for creating new markets and piquing investor interest. But the challenges, including highly regulated healthcare systems, burgeoning populations, investor bias torwards energy and agriculture are not small. So how do talented African health entrepreneurs evolve their ideas in environments with few funders and weak networks? Innovate for Life, Amref Health Africa’s new accelerator for East African health entrepreneurs addresses this gap by offering skills building, networks and access to seed funding.
The Elsevier Foundation is one of the launching partners of the Fund. The program is the pioneer of health sector specific focusing on the ‘missing middle’: entrepreneurs with employees that are too large for microcredit, but (as yet) too small for traditional commercial investors. Amref brings 60 years of African healthcare knowledge and deep local and international networks to the accelerator. Innovate for Life offers a tailor-made Accelerator and Entrepreneur in Residence programme, and has embedded six talented entrepreneurs at the Amref Health Africa offices in August 2017. In January 2018, the top three entrepreneurs were invited to partner with Amref, offering follow up support and joint outreach to investors both in Africa and worldwide.
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 fcohort, 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.
Read the press releases on the Amref Health Africa website: