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Investing in Innovation (i3), a pan-African support initiative for African health supply chain start-ups, has announced its first cohort of 30 companies. Selected start-ups will receive a $50 000 grant and support to catalyse growth-driven partnerships with donors, industry and institutions.
i3 is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sponsored by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, AUDA-NEPAD, and AmerisourceBergen. The initiative unites leading donors, industry and African institutions to jump-start a new way of doing business to support African-led innovations in health.
The 30 start-ups selected hail from 14 African countries. Operating in early- and growth-stages, the companies are delivering novel solutions for device and medicines distribution, stock management and financing, authentication, traceability, medical waste management and more – demonstrating that African-built solutions are poised to help transform access to health products in many ways.
47% of the companies are women-led (which the programme defines as having at least one woman with an equity stake and active executive leadership role), and 30% of the companies are operating in Francophone Africa.
Ann Allen, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “Digitally-enabled, locally-led innovations have huge potential to help address the challenges of access to medicines for historically unserved patients in Africa. We are thrilled to see strong women leaders at the helm of many of these start-ups, as we know innovation ecosystems are strengthened by diversity.”
The selected start-ups are: Chekkit Technologies, Disrupt Pharma Tech Africa (Medsaf), DrugStoc Ehub Limited, Erith Health Services, Gricd, LifeBank, Lifestores Healthcare, OneHealth, ClinicPesa, Damu Sasa, The Pathology Network, Negus Med, Signalytic, Viebeg Technologies, Zuri Health, Xetova, Cure Bionics, DeepEcho, Dr Sett, Infiuss Health Limited, Medevice, Meditect, Sobrus, Valorigo, Azanza Health, Appy Saude, Aviro Health, Contro, VaxiGlobal, and Zinacare.
Dr Abdullahi Sheriff, associate vice president of global market access at MSD, added, “The innovation represented by the start-ups selected is inspiring. At MSD, we are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with these leading innovators through i3, to help transform health care supply chains and improve access to medicines across Africa.”
i3 is coordinated by Salient Advisory, SCIDaR, and SouthBridge A&I and is operationalised by leading technology hubs across the continent. This includes CCHub for West Africa, Startupbootcamp for Southern Africa, IMPACT Lab for North and French-speaking Africa, and Villgro Africa for East Africa. These hubs are responsible for the selection process and the follow-up of the start-ups throughout the program
Efosa Ojomo, director for global prosperity at the Clayton Christensen Institute and member of the i3 Steering Committee, said, “i3’s focus on African ingenuity is long overdue – supporting locally-led, market creating innovations to scale will equip the continent to achieve health gains, generate prosperity and weather future crises.”
According to Prashant Yadav, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development and chairperson of the i3 steering committee, the breadth of innovation represented by the cohort of companies selected is confirming that data-driven innovations can play an important role in rapidly improving the resilience of African health supply chains.