African governments collaborating with tech innovators to strengthen health supply chains

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African governments are collaborating with tech innovators to strengthen local health supply chains, according to new research, which noted nearly 50 partnerships between health startups and African governments focused on optimising supply chains and improving health outcomes across the continent.

Healthcare consulting firm Salient Advisory has launched its latest annual market intelligence report, highlighting a robust pan-African ecosystem of innovators improving the safety and efficiency of health supply chains across the continent. 

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and titled “Innovations in Digitising Health Supply Chains in Africa”, the report is the first pan-African landscape of health supply chain innovators on the continent. It tracks nearly 350 technology-enabled innovators digitising supply chain processes across 27 African countries.

As a wave of supply chain innovations emerged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term viability and impact of their business models was unclear. While the pace of new entry has slowed drastically, findings show African governments working with health supply chain innovators on nearly 50 partnerships, leveraging their tech-enabled solutions to resolve long-term challenges around the availability, accessibility, and quality of health products in public health supply chains. 

Nearly half of the identified partnerships focus on enabling governments to digitise ordering and inventory management to improve efficiency and minimise wastage, highlighting governments’ strong interest in adopting digital order and inventory management solutions. While most innovators working in partnership with governments are more mature, like Zipline and mPharma, several younger companies have also established public sector partnerships early on, including Nigeria’s Figorr and Zimbabwe’s Vaxiglobal. 

As Africa’s tech scene grows, governments’ interest in supporting innovations that deliver social impact – while creating jobs – appears to be developing. The growing emergence of these partnerships also bodes well for the development of innovation-friendly regulations by governments across the continent.

Disparities in funding trends remain apparent across the health supply chain innovation ecosystem. While innovators have raised US$2.6 billion in funding since their founding, US and Europe-based e-commerce companies and medical drone delivery operators account for 77 per cent of all funding raised; the remaining innovators have raised US$584 million since their launch. 

While government interest in innovations in ordering and inventory management appears strong and presents a potential path to scale, startups in this category have raised only nine per cent of all funding since their founding. 

“The report offers the first comprehensive overview of tech-enabled health supply chain innovators emerging across Africa. We are surprised – and thrilled – to see so many government partnerships with innovators underway at both national and sub-national levels. We urge global health donors, agencies and industry partners to join with governments and investors in supporting high-potential innovators, helping foster more efficient and resilient healthcare supply chains while creating jobs,” said Remi Adeseun, director at Salient Advisory.



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