Healthcare consulting firm, Salient Advisory, has launched a health care report calling on donor agencies, governments and impact investors to accelerate the impact and scale of African health-tech innovators working in supply chain. The report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and titled, “Innovations in Health Product Distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa,” sets out a series of actionable recommendations for global health actors. 

As a result of COVID-19, innovative approaches to distributing medicines are growing. The report engaged with 61 of these health-tech innovators; half of which are in Kenya and Uganda, including Rocket Health, MYDAWA, Maisha Meds, SASAdoctor and Afya Rekod. Data can now reveal a consistent expansion in the ecosystem of tech-enabled supply chain companies within sub-Saharan Africa, primarily driven by companies in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

The findings show a more than 100% increase in technology-enabled business models since 2018, as these companies work to change how healthcare products are distributed. Of the companies surveyed, 53% reported hoping to support the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by providing trusted information, track-and-trace services, supporting last-mile delivery and aiding in vaccine administration.

Propelled by COVID-19, businesses that pair telemedicine with product delivery are the most common offerings among new entrants. For the first time, the number of innovators that report operating in both urban and rural areas [49%] surpassed those operating exclusively in urban areas [48%], driving scale, impact and profitability.

As businesses continue to respond to COVID-19, the report calls for more to be done to support, nurture, fund and provide infrastructure access to innovators across Africa who can have a positive and impactful effect on the health care systems. 

Building on these challenges, Salient’s key recommendations for global health actors therefore include:

  • Reshaping investment ecosystems to ensure more equitable funding and professionalized support is accessible to high-potential African founders, including female founders and innovators in francophone Africa.
  • Catalyzing partnerships between the innovators, and NGOs, industry and governments to enable the distribution of publicly subsidized products through locally-grown, tech-driven platforms, especially in rural areas.
  • Increasing access to affordable working capital and mechanisms to enable innovators to offer low-cost onward lending to their customers.
  • Reviewing, developing and harmonizing regulations for telemedicine providers and innovators offering digitally enabled direct-to-consumer distribution of medicines.

Speaking on the launch of the report, Malyse Uwase, Senior Consultant at Salient, commented:

“Cutting-edge tech innovators in East Africa are developing solutions to help transform the delivery of health information, products and services. As innovators support essential health services and the COVID-19 response, partnerships with health actors, governments, donors and regulators will be critical.”

Cheikh Oumar Seydi, Director, Africa, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also commented:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in Africa, and in response governments, the private sector, donors, and health workers have stepped up. This new survey shows that sub-Saharan African start-ups are keen to do more to support the distribution of essential medicines and vaccines and are already investing in the technology to do so.

“As we work to deliver a fair and equitable approach, we must leverage partnerships and collaborate sector to sector, locally and internationally, to strengthen health care systems and achieve universal health coverage.”

To download the full PDF report, click here.


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