Over the past few decades, the perception of healthcare has gradually shifted from it being only a socio-political issue to be addressed by government intervention and spending alone, to being a viable business and investment opportunity as well as an avenue for overall economic development. Healthcare today has been acknowledged as requiring the attention and involvement of governments, developmental organizations as well as the Private Sector. This view was further validated at the 2019 edition of the just concluded Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum (TEF Forum) where for the first time ever, the role of healthcare in Africa’s economic development became a front-burner topic.
There was a panel session on ‘The Role of Healthcare in Economic Transformation.’ moderated by the Chairperson of Avon HMO and TEF Trustee, Dr Awele Elumelu. Making insightful and far-reaching contributions to this topic were the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Vice President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Gilles Carbonnier; First Lady, Republic of Guinea, H.E. Mme Djena Kaba Condé; First Lady, Republic of Mali, H.E. Mme Keïta Aminata Maiga and the Regional Director, UN Women, Central and West Africa, Oulimata Sarr.
During Adesimbo Ukiri’s masterclass on ‘Opportunities for Healthcare Start-ups to Penetrate and Scale’, she said that while the continent is faced with healthcare challenges such as infrastructure and coverage, standardisation of quality and data across healthcare facilities, training and manpower development and supply, amongst others, these present entrepreneurs with opportunities to innovate. She believes that by solving these problems, the growing wave of healthcare start-ups will positively impact the economic outlook of the continent, particularly with the aid of technology.
“According to the International Finance Corporation, $25-$30 billion in new investments will be needed to meet Africa’s health care demand over the next decade. This is a lot of money but there are signs of encouragement as investments are already coming in. Through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Avon HMO has been able to perform its corporate social responsibility over the years by supporting entrepreneurs across Africa, particularly in healthcare.
Also, in Nigeria for instance, health-tech start-ups have raised $7.88 million and this is only the beginning. In spite of challenges in the sector, there are success stories coming out, exemplified by companies such as LifeBank and Helpmum in Nigeria, Kea Medicals in Benin Republic, Zipline in Ghana and a host of others. This shows that there are opportunities not only for success but also for growth.” She said.
She however implored entrepreneurs to focus on solving real problems even as they leverage on technology to scale up.
“It is not enough to simply build a product. Many start-ups in the health space have demonstrated admirable abilities in innovating but the real challenge is to build a product or service the market needs and will value enough to pay for at scale.” She added.
Licensed in 2012, Avon Healthcare Ltd (Avon HMO) is a leading health management organization providing healthcare plans and other healthcare services to all Nigerians – individuals, families, groups, companies and communities. In 2015, Avon became the first HMO in the country to serve the retail market with an array of health plan options, offering everyone the opportunity to subscribe and pay via their mobile devices. By providing broad access to quality healthcare products and services, Avon is empowering Nigerians to live healthier, fuller lives.
Avon HMO is a part of the Heirs Holdings Group, an African proprietary investment company driving Africa’s development through long-term investments in key sectors