The second accelerator week for the Innovate for Life Fund, held November 13-17, 2017 at the Amref Health Africa Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, brought together the six health care entrepreneurs who have scalable solutions in support of primary health care in Africa.
The event was a build-up from a similar one held in September where the entrepreneurs were provided with mentorship opportunities by Amref Health Africa and Grassroots Business Fund. The goal of the Innovate for Life Fund accelerator weeks is to offer an opportunity for entrepreneurs to scale their solutions thereby achieving bigger impact in health care across Africa. The six had a week- long programme that was a learning and interactive session with key stakeholders in the health sector and lead business persons from inside and outside of Africa.
The biggest motivation for these entrepreneurs is to solve real day-to-day health challenges that people encounter. Problems one such entrepreneur is the Nigeria-based Medsaf, a supply chain platform for pharmaceuticals solving the problem of counterfeit drugs in the market. This came into being when one of the co-founders had a relative die from malaria due to the intake of fake medicine purchased from the open market.
This specific innovation offers a platform whereby the manufacturers and suppliers of medicine are aggregated together in a move to counter supply of fake medicine to the public and, at the same time, ensure the consumer gets quality medicine at a pocket-friendly price. This move has minimised the level of consumer extortion that was there initially.
The success of this innovation, however, has not come without its fair share of challenges for the three years it has been running. Lack of sufficient capital for both initial stage and continuity has been a key challenge. Finding the right professionals who ideally share in the innovation’s vision has been an uphill task. Access to government incentives has also been a big challenge due to various regulations. Thanks to Amref Health Africa, it has been possible for Medsaf to make its business market- friendly. Also, they have successfully accessed networking around the globe for business mentorship and funding.
The six entrepreneurs attended workshop sessions whereby learned about leadership, corporate governance and planning in face of competition. The sessions were facilitated by industry experts and successful entrepreneurs. They were also booked for industrial visits in the Ministry of Health where they met the Cabinet Secretary, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency, which is the public system of drug supply in the country, Grofin and Merck to learn more about the pharmaceutical industry and medical supply chains.
The six were also engaged in an intensive program whereby each of them met every Amref Health Africa department to identify are opportunities for partnership. Also in attendance was the Chanjo plus, an in-residence innovator and Amref Health Africa Innovate for Life hackathon challenge winner attached to Amref Health Africa’s enterprise department. Chanjo plus was invited to join the accelerator programme to learn from the other innovators and for growth purposes.
“Innovate for life will be the place to go in terms of any Healthcare entrepreneur in Africa who thinks of going to the next level,” said Simon, Fund Officer for the, Innovate for Life Fund.
“To all the innovators this is the beginning of a journey, stick to it, be consistent, have a vision, have flexibility in that vision and aim to grow upscale.” said Kanini Mutooni, chair of Global Innovations Fund in her encouraging message to the six innovators who successfully made it to the top rank. She was excited to interact with the innovators whom she feels are going an extra mile in tackling pertinent health matters in the continent that have been overlooked for far too long and offering vibrant solutions that matter most in the 21st century. She expressed confidence that the innovators will be in a position to tap bigger markets and scale upward.