Innovations boosting the impact of healthcare solutions across Africa

By Silvia Sironi, Yanina Semenchenko, Melody Rolph & Carlos Paniagua Ferrari — This story was updated on 5 August 2022 to announce the winners of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation who were recognised in a ceremony on 11 July 2022.

Photo courtesy of the Federal Chancellery of Austria

The Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa is initiated by the Austrian Federal Chancellery, in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator, the Austrian Development Agency and the Kofi Annan Foundation with the goal of addressing urgent healthcare needs of people across Africa.

The first edition of the award focuses on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: Good Health and Well-Being and emphasizes the importance of financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

The call for applications was open to African social entrepreneurs and purpose-driven enterprises with measurable social impact and a sustainable business model. Out of 330 applications from 38 countries, nine teams were selected to participate in a fully virtual WFP Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp– an intense immersive week-long experience, during which the teams had the chance to receive individual hands-on support and guidance from technical and industry mentors to further develop and refine their proposals. The Bootcamp took place from 21–25 February 2022.

Following the Bootcamp, the nine teams were invited to virtually pitch their proposals to a high-level jury on 6 May 2022. The jury consisted of ten high-ranking members with a strong track record of promoting social entrepreneurs in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda, including Nobel Prize winner Prof. Muhammad Yunus, special Advisor to the Federal Chancellor of Austria Antonella Mei-Pochtler, Master University College Oxford Baroness Valerie Amos, Co-founder of Boardroom One Kojo Annan, Executive Director of the World Food Programe David Beasley, Managing Director Kenewendo Advisory Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, Chair of the board of the Kofi Annan Foundation Elhadj As SY, Founder of Speakup Africa Yacine Djibo, Founder of Learning Lions Ludwig Prinz Von Bayern, and Co-founder of Schmidt Futures Eric Schmidt.

Of the nine finalists, three winning teams were selected by the jury scores and a due diligence process, based on a set of criteria, including: impact & scalability of the idea, the business model, team, innovativeness and traction.

The winning teams announced at an award ceremony on 11 July 2022 in Vienna, Austria, were Flare (Kenya), myPaddi by MOBicure (Nigeria), and Vaxiglobal (Zimbabwe). Each team will receive EUR 250,000 in funding, and has been invited to participate in the WFP Innovation Accelerator Sprint Programme — a structured 12-months’ programme, during which the teams will have access to tailored mentoring and coaching support, and cohort-wide networking events. Congratulations to the three awardees and the six finalists for a great journey in the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa.

About the winners:

Flare (Kenya)

Flare provides a 24/7 one-stop national emergency response network platform, responding to the needs of 1.2 billion citizens in Africa that currently live without access to an emergency response system such as 911 or 112.

The Flare digital platform helps aggregate and coordinate the fragmented ecosystem of emergency vehicles to dispatch the closest vehicle within minutes, thereby drastically reducing waiting times. Currently, Flare has enabled access to about 1.2 million users. Founded in 2016, the company employs 30 full-time employees, 50 percent of whom are women.

myPaddi by MOBicure (Nigeria)

The finalist MOBicure has developed myPaddi — an educational app that destigmatizes sexual health. In Nigeria, 100,000 young people already use myPaddi for discrete access to counseling.

The app supports people coping with sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies or HIV infections. myPaddi provides anonymous access to doctors and trained counselors and enables the purchase of sexual and reproductive health products via the app.

Founded in 2015, myPaddi employs 15 people, 40 percent of whom are women.

Vaxiglobal (Zimbabwe)

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of vaccines may be wasted globally every year and don’t reach their intended beneficiaries. Vaxiglobal helps to minimize vaccine waste by facilitating artificial intelligence (AI) verification of vaccine deliveries through the offline creation of biometric-linked digital vaccination certificates to verify vaccine delivery in Africa. The start-up was founded in 2019 and currently has 320,000 registered users. It employs 11 full-time employees, 62 percent of whom are women. The immediate goal of Vaxiglobal is to certify the yellow fever vaccination for travelers.

About the finalists:

Gerocare (Nigeria)

GeroCare provides 160,000 senior citizens with regular doctor visits. Newly subscribed patients are instantly matched with the nearby doctors,and patients’ family members benefit from receiving regular medical updates about their elderly relatives.

The Nigeria-based GeroCare cloud-based platform currently has 750 doctors, 900+ pharmacies, and 100+ laboratories and provides primary health services in 52 cities of Nigeria.

Founded in 2017, the company employs 11 people, 50 percent of whom are women.

Lifestores Healthcare (Mauritius)

Lifestores Healthcare offers an integrated dispensary management platform and already supports 500 pharmacies with back-of-house needs by streamlining their procurement, to reduce the cost of essential medicine and combat counterfeit drug trafficking. As a holistic pharmacy management network, Lifestores Healthcare is already the first contact point for health-related issues for 100,000 patients. Operating in Nigeria, the team are mostly pharmacists with a deep knowledge of logistics.

The company currently has 50 employees, 50 percent of whom are women. By 2025, Lifestores Healthcare aims to serve 1.000.000 patients a day with this one-stop-shop, where they integrate vendors and patients.

mDreet (Botswana)

The extreme shortage of hearing aid technicians in African countries leads to hearing impairments going undetected and unmanaged.

With its mobile hearing test, mDREET is revolutionizing the field of screening. Their innovative solution is based on an affordable solar-powered hearing aid, developed by Deaftronics, and powered by the batteries which can be charged by sun, household light or a cell phone plug. The batteries last for 2–3 years and can be used in 80 percent of hearing aids on the market.

The company currently has 12 employees and aims to provide hearing screenings for 100,000 schoolchildren in Kenya and Nigeria within 12 months.

Rocket Health (Uganda)

Rocket Health currently helps 3.8 million patients with chronic diseases comply with their treatment plans. The telemedicine platform offers 24/7 online consultations with doctors through different channels (chatbot, phone, video calls, sms) in different languages.

Rocket Health has an end-to-end medical service, takes lab samples, provides follow-up calls from doctors, and delivers medicines to homes. To ensure that all patients truly have access, the solution works on feature (i.e. non-smart) phones and offline.

The enterprise was founded in 2012 and has 110 full time and 43 part time employees, 50 percent of whom are women.

Shezlong (Egypt)

Shezlong has developed a female health-oriented platform that actively addresses the stigma and cultural shame related to psychotherapy through continuous awareness campaigns. Online sessions can be booked from anywhere and at any time. Shezlong’s solution, the “digital Sigmund Freud” of North Africa, has already helped more than 70,000 people with affordable mental health services. Among them (65 percent) are Arabic speaking women who wouldn’t have access to psychotherapy especially during the pandemic.

It focuses on women surviving violence and abuse. The company was founded in 2014 and employs 40 people, 62 percent of whom are women.

Talamus (United States of America)

Talamus is a marketplace that ensures continuous patient care through a unique platform. Patients are connected in real-time to nearby health service providers. Over 120,000 users already use the fully integrated mobile health platform, which enables them access to services ranging from hospitals and diagnostics, down to pharmacies and insurance coverage.

Talamus reduces waiting times in clinics by nearly 70 percent and reduces medication costs by 30 percent. Their comprehensive interface is easy-to-use, enabling paper-less and frictionless patient management.

Founded in 2016, Talamus has 42 employees, 45 percent of whom are women.

Read more about the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

Find out more about us: http://innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch our videos on YouTube.

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