Tackling healthcare disparities intensified by conflict and displacement is crucial for building long-term resilience and self-sufficiency among refugees. Utilizing advanced technology allows for the provision of immediate medical aid, enhancing healthcare accessibility a vital element in the broader framework of African development and stability.

U.S. messaging platform Gupshup, Meta (formerly Facebook), the Sudan Medical Specialization Board, and Shabaka, a consulting and research organization dedicated to humanitarian issues, have jointly launched a telemedicine chatbot. The initiative, announced by Gupshup on July 3, aims to deliver medical assistance to Sudanese refugees.

“We are honored to be part of this humanitarian project that aims to provide essential healthcare services to Sudanese refugees in need. By leveraging the power of conversational AI and the reach of WhatsApp, we can make a significant impact on the lives of these individuals who have faced immense challenges,” said Beerud Sheth,  Founder & CEO of Gupshup.

The chatbot, accessible via WhatsApp, targets refugees in Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Djibouti, and other neighboring countries. The telemedicine service offers a secure, regulatory-compliant platform supporting Arabic and English, with additional languages planned.

According to Gupshup, the project aims to meet the urgent healthcare needs of about 800,000 Sudanese refugees with limited access to medical services. The chatbot allows patients to connect with healthcare providers, who then route them to a triage team for assessment before linking them to one of over 18 specialty doctors.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reveals that the ongoing conflict has left nearly 25 million people in Sudan in need of humanitarian assistance, with severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and fuel affecting millions. This underscores the importance of scalable, tech-driven solutions in humanitarian aid efforts to support vulnerable populations in crises effectively.

Hikmatu Bilali

Published in Tech

The solution, launched by several tech entrepreneurs, aims to revolutionize the pharmaceutical supply chain. It is growing fast and intends to expand to several countries in Africa.

Egyptian startup Grinta has developed an e-health solution that allows pharmacies to replenish their medicine stocks via its web and mobile platforms. Founded in 2022 by Hamza Tag, Yosra Badr, Mohamed Azab, and Ali Youssef, the Cairo-based startup aims to become Africa’s leading wholesale platform for medicines, cosmetics, and medical supplies, serving as the primary intermediary between pharmaceutical laboratories and pharmacies.

To achieve its ambitions, Grinta has made several acquisitions of companies operating in its sector. Last August, it acquired Auto Cure, a business-to-business e-commerce platform serving independent pharmacists in Alexandria, bolstering its growth in this region. “The acquisition of Auto Cure underscores Grinta’s commitment to delivering value to its customers and expanding its presence in the Egyptian market,” said Mohamed Azab.

Grinta’s mobile application, available on iOS and Android, requires pharmacies to create an account to access its supply chain. They can replenish their supplies via digital distributors, manage their stocks and sales, access educational content, and arrange financing or loans. “We empower our customers to purchase the pharmaceuticals and supplies they need and provide them with tools to manage their working capital and inventory through an easy-to-use and inclusive platform, enabling them to prioritize patient care,” the startup explains.

Beyond Egypt, the e-health platform, which claims to have served over 7,000 pharmacies and delivered more than 200,000 orders by August 2023, is also operational in Tanzania. With ambitions for expansion, the Android version of its mobile application has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, according to the Play Store.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

The solution was set up by young tech entrepreneurs to make it easier for people to buy medicines in local languages. It won first prize at the 2023 Orange Summer Challenge.

Seribox, an e-health solution developed by the Sily Group, leverages artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to enable users to acquire medicines in local languages. The group, led by Youssouf Djafara Diallo, initially showcased its solution at the 2023 Orange Summer Challenge. This competition, organized by telecom operator Orange, assembled students from diverse universities across 15 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Seribox operates as a medicine dispenser that can be procured via a smartphone functioning as an order terminal. Users simply press the microphone icon button, akin to creating a voice note on an instant messaging application, to place an order in their chosen local language. In a demonstration video, Diallo placed orders in Sousou and Peulh, two local languages prevalent in Guinea.

The system responds in the order’s language, ensuring to repeat the ordered medicine’s name and its price. It automatically shifts the order to the shopping basket, with the option to add more orders to the basket. Upon completion of this stage, users validate the order by pressing the corresponding green button. The terminal then displays a QR code, allowing the bill to be paid via the Orange Money application. Once payment is confirmed, the dispenser releases the ordered medicines for the user to collect without any issues.

It’s important to note that Seribox does not dispense medicines that require a doctor’s prescription. Doctors must log into a dedicated platform to prescribe drugs that can be utilized on Seribox. They can prescribe up to four drugs per prescription, and upon doing so, the system generates a QR code. Users can photograph the prescription or have it printed on paper to place their order with Seribox. An order can also be canceled by sending a voice message to the device.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

The e-health solution was established by a former banker, who ventured into entrepreneurship driven by her desire to transform telemedicine in Central Africa. 

AfriWell Health, a Congolese healthtech startup, offers a platform for patients to connect with healthcare professionals for treatment. Founded in 2022 by Joelle Itoua Owona and based in Pointe-Noire, the startup secured an undisclosed funding from Google for Startups in March 2023 to bolster its growth.

The company’s solution, an Android-exclusive mobile application, allows users to register with their personal details and access a variety of healthtech services, including online appointments with general practitioners and specialists.

Since AfriWell Health has doctors worldwide, consultations are mainly carried out online. Owona’s goal with her healthtech solution is to address the doctor shortage in Africa, particularly in Congo. The platform maintains a digital medical record for each patient, providing doctors with a comprehensive view of their medical history.

The startup also facilitates healthcare provision for the Congolese diaspora to their relatives back home. Additionally, AfriWell Health provides a weekly updated list of on-duty pharmacies in Pointe-Noire, streamlining the medicine purchasing process for patients.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

In 2018, three young Togolese entrepreneurs launched a bespoke mobile application aiming to provide citizens with nationwide digital health records. This initiative aims to enhance access and improve healthcare delivery across the country.

KondjiGbalē is a healthtech solution developed by a Togolese startup that enables users to connect with healthcare professionals via its web and mobile platforms. The Lomé-based startup was founded in 2018 by three young Togolese, with Yvon Koudam as the CEO. 

This application is like “a comprehensive digital health record, functioning similarly to a health passport. Additionally, it empowers patients to actively manage their medical history. For healthcare professionals, it facilitates diagnosis and streamlines the overall treatment process. Notably, the platform offers diverse access channels, including a website, mobile app, call center with local language support, and a USSD menu catering to areas with limited internet connectivity,” says Koudam. 

The mobile application is only available on Android. After downloading, users must register by providing their details. Once registered, users can access a range of healthtech services, including a shared medical file, teleconsultation with doctors, online medication ordering and delivery, medication alerts, and the ability to locate nearby on-call pharmacies, streamlining healthcare access and management. These features enable users to proactively manage their health and efficiently obtain professional medical assistance and medication from home.

KondjiGbalē has received several awards since its launch. In 2019, it took first prize at the Fenes' Pitch Your Startup Idea and the Togo Innovation Challenge. According to Play Store data, the mobile app has been downloaded more than a thousand times.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

He aims to improve access to healthcare services in Africa. With Zinacare, he offers over 20 different tests, ranging from sexually transmitted infections to chronic diseases and even Covid-19.

Philip Mngadi (photo) is a South African serial entrepreneur with a decade of experience building products in Africa and Europe. He is the founder and CEO of Zinacare, a company revolutionizing access to essential health testing services in Africa.

His academic career began at University College Cork, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 2017. After his studies, he worked for Stripe in Ireland as a payments specialist before embarking on entrepreneurship.

In 2020, he launched Zinacare, allowing access to more than 20 different tests, which range from sexually transmitted infections to chronic diseases and COVID-19. He enables users to order test kits from the Zinacare platform and get them delivered to their homes or offices. Users can also send their samples to Zinacare's partner laboratory, which sends back the results online confidentially and securely. Zinacare also offers medical consultation, prescription, and post-test follow-up services.

Under the leadership of Philip Mngadi, Zinacare has received accreditation from the Health Professions Council of South Africa, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the South African National Accreditation System, and the International Organization for Standardization. In addition, the company succeeded in attracting over 20,000 customers in 2022 and is on track to double the figure in 2023.

In June 2023, the startup was selected by Google to be part of the annual Black Founders Fund cohort in Africa. It has also joined StartUp Health's global community of healthcare founders and investors.

In addition to Zinacare, Philip Mngadi also founded Pago, a low-cost mobile micropayments platform for the informal sector to enable an inclusive economy by digitizing remittances through the use of blockchain technology. The company was incubated by the AlphaCode Incubate initiative in 2018.

In 2019, the serial entrepreneur also founded Tuma, a fintech that enables users to transfer funds from any instant money wallet such as eWallet, CashSend, and Send-iMali, to any bank account in South Africa.

Melchior Koba

Published in TECH STARS

In some regions, in Africa, access to medicines can prove challenging. Startups operating in the distribution of pharmaceuticals are interesting alternatives for people living in those regions. 

Afia Pharma is a digital solution developed by Rwandan firm Afia Group Ltd. It enables users to purchase pharmaceutical products online from the comfort of their homes. The Kigali-based start-up was founded in 2020 by Biganza Papy.

We are “on a mission to make quality medications accessible, available, and affordable to billions of people across Africa, to ensure that everyone has access to medicine at any time and everywhere,” Afia Pharma stated on its website. 

Through its mobile apps –Android and iOS apps–, users can create accounts and purchase pharmaceuticals, from antivirals, vitamins, and antimalarials to anti-inflammatories.

To order on Afia Pharma, users need to simply search for the products they are looking for, add them to their cart, select the delivery option, and confirm the order. Users can upload their prescriptions for products that require so. 

Afia Pharma accepts most electronic payment methods, such as credit cards. To help users take their medications as prescribed, Afia’s mobile app includes a reminder option. 

 In 2023, the healthtech solution was selected to join the second cohort of the pan-African Investing in Innovation (i3) program, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft, among others. This selection entitles it to $50,000 in funding to accelerate its growth across Africa.  

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

In Africa, access to pharmacies and hospitals can prove challenging in some regions. To address the problem, e-health solutions have been introduced. 

Zendawa is an e-health platform developed by a Kenyan startup. It enables access to pharmaceutical products and facilitates online appointments with doctors. The Nakuru-based start-up was founded in 2022 by Wilfred Chege. It aims to establish sustainable solutions in the health technology sector.

Currently, the solution has no mobile app. So, users have to visit its web platform to browse the various services it offers, without even having to create an account. Users need no account to even book an appointment. They just have to click on the "Make an appointment" button and fill in the required information, including the name, e-mail address, phone number, appointment date, and details about the medical condition.  

Zendawa offers pharmacists a cash and inventory management service and access to working capital. "We leverage on Artificial Intelligence, based on data from our pharmacies' digital suite, to come up with credit scores which unlock access to capital for our pharmacies from our lending partners," it says on its web platform. 

The platform also has a feature that allows doctors to share patients’ medical records.  "We provide our medical practitioners with an integrated digital suite from which they can share patient's medical records and leverage on Artificial Intelligence to provide fully informed care decisions," Zendawa states. 

Zendawa has launched a deferred payment service to facilitate supplies to pharmacies in the event of stock shortages. In 2023, it was selected as one of 29 African startups to take part in the second cohort of the Investing in Innovation (i3) program.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

MedsToGo was launched by Ebrahim Ally, a South African finance professional, to facilitate the supply of pharmaceuticals in major South African cities. 

MedsToGo is a business-to-customer e-health solution developed by a South African start-up, launched in 2016. It allows users to purchase prescription drugs, health items, vitamins, and baby care products. 

Through its mobile (Android and iOS) apps, a user can create an account to access its services. For the account, the user needs the following information: name, email address, telephone number, and a secure password among other things.  To place an order, the user must click on the "Orders" tab, and then specify whether the drugs and products are prescribed or self-prescribed. Once this step is completed, the user can access the virtual pharmacy, select the products needed, and finalize the purchase.

From Monday to Saturday, orders are delivered the same day when placed before noon. If not, they are delivered the following day. It should be noted that MedsToGo partners with numerous pharmacies in various parts of the country to facilitate the supply of pharmaceutical products.

In addition to this service, it integrates a messaging feature that enables messages to be sent to the pharmacist when needed. Among other things, it can help readjust the dosage of a patient's medication, or change it if the patient's condition is not improving. 

For the time being, the startup wants to sustain its growth in the domestic market before considering an international expansion. Since its launch, the MedsToGo Android app has been downloaded over a thousand times. 

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

After studying in Canada and working as a consultant at McKinsey, Sophia Alj became a digital entrepreneur, launching this startup for dentists.

Mondentiste.ma is an e-health solution developed by a young Moroccan startup. It allows dentists to manage their daily appointments and patients to schedule dental care appointments in several cities throughout the country. The app was launched in Casablanca in 2017 by Sophia Alj, a serial tech entrepreneur who also co-founded the startup Chari.ma and co-leads the incubator Wib.co.

The goal is to "connect dental health professionals, patients, and advertisers in the oral hygiene sector."

The solution features a mobile application available on iOS and Android for healthcare professionals. Dentists, using their smartphones, can check their appointment schedules in real time, book new appointments, and accept and modify online appointment requests. Patients, for their part, can access the service only via its web platform.

Users are not required to have an account to browse the platform. All they have to do is, based on their location, use the search bar and look up a dentist from available options. Next, they schedule an appointment, provided that the timeslot picked is available. With Mondestiste.ma, it is also easy to find a specific dentist, given that the user knows the first and last names of this professional.

The platform also includes a blog where topics related to oral health are discussed. Since its launch, the Mondentiste.ma app has been downloaded over a hundred times.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions
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