WHO, others to unveil $7m fund to support 60 African growth-stage firms

The World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa, AUDA-NEPAD, AmerisourceBergen, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) are launching a $7 million pan-African initiative to provide 60 promising early and growth-stage companies with risk-tolerant grants alongside commercialization support to power their impact at scale.

The programme, termed ‘Investing in Innovation (i3),’ is coordinated by healthcare consulting firm, Salient Advisory alongside SCIDaR, and SouthBridge A&I and is operationalized with CCHub, Startupbootcamp, IMPACT Lab, and Villgro Africa.

The development came on the back of Salient Advisory report on market intelligence highlighting promising African health tech start-ups in the supply chain.

Speaking on the launch of the report and i3 program, Director of Salient Advisory, Remi Adeseun said, “There has been considerable progress over the past year as supply chain innovations work to enhance access to quality medicines. Our report provides investors, donors, and governments with actionable recommendations on engagement strategies to advance companies’ growth and impact. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and along with our esteemed partners, we are excited to be launching the Investing in Innovation program to connect promising companies to customers who can power their impact and scale.”

Cheikh Oumar Seydi, Director, Africa, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, commented, “African health innovators have shown increasing capacity to leverage technology to optimize supply chains and advance access to medicines. Such local innovations have the potential to change how supply chains and health systems function – and it is time to support them. We are pleased to be collaborating with strong global and continental partners to jointly strengthen African health systems, and accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.”

Dr Abdullahi Sheriff, AVP, Global Market Access, Sustainable Access Solutions at MSD also commented, “There has been considerable progress in tech-driven innovation in health product distribution across Africa. Spurring and scaling disruptive innovation in health supply chain is key to expanding access to medicines for all. That’s why we, at MSD, are excited to collaborate on the i3 program.”

Dr Janet Byaruhanga, Senior Programme Officer – Health at AUDA-NEPAD also commented, “The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the capacity of African innovators to leverage tech-enabled solutions to transform medicine distribution. AUDA-NEPAD will continue to leverage its mandate and comparative advantage to foster partnerships that strengthen evidence, deploy innovation, enhance policy environments and facilitate critical investments, while creating valuable and high-impact jobs across the continent.

Key highlight of the report

67% of innovators based in Nigeria operate in both the rural and urban areas.

18% of innovators are led by either an all-female founding team or a female founder.

Innovators in Nigeria raised $79m in the last 12 months.

14% of innovators domiciled in Nigeria operate in more than one country.

71% of innovators are primarily concerned with facilitating consumer distribution.

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