#Covid-19 #Health #Africa
The Covid-19 pandemic knows no borders and Africa is no longer spared. It may not be as severe as in Europe or the USA, but maybe the worst is yet to come. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts an epidemiological peak in a number of African countries, some of which are faced with difficult health situations. According to the Cameroonian epidemiologist Yap Boum, in mid-May, the situation was developing more “dangerously in Nigeria, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo […] which concurs with WHO’s concerns”.
The fragility and disparity of African health systems make the situation particularly alarming. For example, the newspaper Le Monde notes that in the Central African Republic, there were only three artificial respirators available in early April for a population of some 5 million inhabitants. “By way of comparison, France had about 5,000 before the outbreak of the epidemic”.
Many African countries also have to combat counterfeit drugs, which is a major public health issue. For example, in Senegal, more and more people are turning to the informal market to find supposed cures for Covid-19, with a risk of buying fake treatments.
Further reading: special issue of PROPARCO’s Private Sector & Development magazine on access to medicine in Africa
The offensive of African HealthTech
Private health players are taking action to address this unprecedented crisis, which is expected to have serious economic and social impacts on the most vulnerable African populations due to the Western recession. This is particularly the case for start-ups that focus on connected health, a sector undergoing a revolution. Indeed, in recent years, a number of initiatives and projects have “spread” to make up for “The lack of caregivers and health facilities”, reports Le Point. These dynamics contribute to bringing about local innovations in several African countries, devised by Africans for Africa.
This is the case with the Pass Santé Mousso, an electronic bracelet connected to an application that allows people to carry their personal and medical data on them in the form of jewelry. It was created in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018 by the entrepreneur Corinne Maurice Ouattara and its use has boomed with the current health crisis. “With a group of entrepreneurs and support from the African Development Bank [AfDB], we have proposed to boost the Pass to turn it into a pre-diagnosis and follow-up tool for Covid-19 patients”, explains the entrepreneur in an article in Le Monde. In 2019, she took part in the Social & Inclusive Business Camp (SIBC) acceleration program of Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which brings together dozens of social entrepreneurs from all over Africa every year. Corinne Maurice Ouattara also shared her experience in Abidjan during a recent event of Choose Africa, the French initiative that aims to earmark EUR 2.5bn to finance African start-ups and SMEs via AFD Group’s tools.
Strong private sector solidarity
Elsewhere in Africa, other initiatives led by private players are setting up systems that connect patients and the medical sector during this crisis. This is the case with mPharma, which is supported by the Novastar II impact fund invested in by PROPARCO in 2019. This start-up, which operates in Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia, has just presented mobile Covid-19 screening equipment to the Noguchi Medical Research Institute of the University of Ghana.
In Kenya, the start-up Ajua (formerly mSurvey), which is specialized in the real-time monitoring of consumer opinions and supported by PROPARCO, has released an informative analysis of the acceptance of the lockdown measures and health policies.
In Morocco, ODM Group, which has several clinics and diagnosis centers specialized in oncology, took action right from the onset of the pandemic by providing Sidi Moumen Hospital in Casablanca with several respirators and monitors. In 2018, PROPARCO, with a consortium of investors, took part in the buyout of ODM Group from its historical shareholders. This operation has increased the number of cancer diagnostic and treatment consultations in Morocco.