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Innovative digital health solutions from Africa

From solar-powered hearing aids to digital emergency platforms and cloud-based hospitals, creative startups across Africa are developing disruptive digital health solutions as part of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of international cooperation and innovative solutions in the field of health. That is why the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa focuses on the third Sustainable Development Goal: Health and Well-Being (“SDG3”). The Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa aims to identify companies and startups with a positive social impact on the African continent and support them in scaling up their digital solutions. The following institutions are partnering in the organization of this Award: the Federal Chancellery of Austria, the Austrian Development Agency, the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator and the Kofi Annan Foundation.

“It is my aspiration that health finally will be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for.” – Kofi Annan

Three hundred thirty applications from 38 African countries demonstrate Africa’s enormous entrepreneurial potential in the health sector. A characteristic feature of the nine finalist teams of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa is the high proportion (about 50%) of female founders and employees. All of them are working to overcome the bottlenecks and supply gaps on the African continent with ingenious platform solutions. In addition to concrete support from a strong network of Africa-experienced companies, investors and institutions, the three awardees will each receive 250,000 euros, long-term mentoring, networking opportunities, and high international visibility. The Kofi Annan Award Ceremony will take place in early July 2022.

Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation Board Elhadj As Sy is chair of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa. “I am delighted to be the jury chair for the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa, which recognizes Kofi Annan’s deep commitment to Africa and the well-being of its people. This Award is a brilliant opportunity for African entrepreneurs and enterprises to advance their innovative solutions, scale-up their businesses, and drive positive social change.”

Achieving the goals of the UN Agenda 2030 with ingenious digital innovations

The lack of doctors, pharmacies, laboratories or hospitals in rural areas; the long distances; the lack of emergency services; or the lack of financial resources— all these issues pose significant challenges to health systems on the African continent. The innovative power of the most promising nine social entrepreneurs of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa is enormous. During an intensive five-day boot camp hosted by the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator as an Award partner, the potential of the startups was clearly demonstrated.

“The range and quality of the participating startup teams and the solutions presented are impressive. It is important to scale them up through targeted support,” said Antonella Mei-Pochtler, who is leading the Award on behalf of the Austrian Federal Chancellery as co-chair of the jury. The finalists, who come from 38 countries, address various aspects of healthcare:

Securing basic medical care

Within minutes, Flare in Kenya puts you in touch with an emergency team and sends help. This solution has so far saved over 10,000 acute patients and enabled the safe delivery of 4,000 children. More than 1.2 million people already use the 24/7 app in Kenya. Talamus provides end-to-end patient care in Ghana and Nigeria. More than 50 clinics, 80 pharmacies and 180 labs are connected through an interface. The startup is now aiming to enter the Zimbabwean healthcare market.

Secure medication supply

With a pharmacy network, Mauritius-based Lifestores Healthcare streamlines procurement for more than 500 members. This lowers the cost of essential medicines and combats counterfeit trade. Plans call for expansion into Nigeria and Kenya. The Zimbabwean verification service Vaxiglobal‘s use of contactless biometrics for vaccine deliveries minimizes resource wastage, improves the data quality and enables the scaling up of vaccination campaigns in developing countries. Already 320,000 users are registered.

Telemedicine for long distances

GeroCare, a cloud-based hospital, already serves 160,000 elderly people in 52 cities in Nigeria. This segment of the population comprises 13.6 million people who could potentially be served by the platform. GeroCare now aims to integrate insurers and financial partners into their solution. Through a simple shortcode for all cell phones (*280#), Rocket Health helps approximately four million chronically ill people in Uganda. The startup is enjoying great success with its online doctor consultations and home delivery of medicines.

Prevention with solar power and digitization

With its mobile hearing test, mDREET from Deaftronics in Botswana is revolutionizing the hearing screening sector. The immediate goal is to test three million children between the ages of two and six. In cases of impairment, affordable, solar-powered hearing aids are used—a revolutionary idea relevant to the world. With myPaddi from MoBicure, 100,000 young people in Nigeria already have discreet access to sexual health counselling. Their app helps address sexual abuse and prevent teen pregnancy or HIV infection. The Shezlong online platform in Egypt offers mental health services at affordable prices. It currently reaches around 70,000 people. Approximately 65% of users are Arabic-speaking women. Online sessions can be booked from anywhere and at any time. The service will soon be expanded to South Africa.

More about the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa

Each finalist is offered mentoring and international networking with selected international investors, industry experts and companies. Three finalists from the nine will be chosen as winners by a high-calibre ten-member jury, including Kofi Annan Foundation Chair of the Board, Elhadj As Sy, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Valerie Amos, Kojo Annan, David Beasley and Bogolo Joy Kenewendo. Each of the three winning teams will receive EUR 250,000, complemented by 12 months of intensive support for scaling up their health solutions. Thes finalists will be awarded prizes at a ceremony in Vienna in early July 2022.

Factsheet, timeline, photos, infographics and videos on the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa are available in the Media Corner of the Award website.