Investing in change: The start-ups changing healthcare through innovation

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A change in the way we see, and deliver, healthcare has been a burgeoning investment in start-ups in the sector. In 2017 alone, the estimated global investment in healthcare start-ups sat at around $12 billion.

Some of the brightest and best ideas transforming healthcare have been born on our continent: Drones delivery of medical supplies, systems that transform diagnosis and apps that connect remote medical workers to resources at nearby hospitals.

This year’s Africa Cup finalists include some of this next generation of innovative healthcare start-ups who all share the same sentiment: They believe the continent’s healthcare issues can be solved by using technology.

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The next generation of new ideas

The SA Innovation Summit’s Africa Cup is open to innovative ideas, start-ups and early stage companies in tech and tech-enabled sectors. Finalists will pitch their businesses in front of an esteemed panel of judges on the final day of the Summit, with the winner set to receive a R5 million investment offer and three weeks of acceleration.

The cup has 11 finalists from a range of categories, including Fintech, Big Data, Social Entrepreneurship and Healthcare. The three healthcare finalists are:

  • Curacel, a Nigerian AI-driven platform, that fast tracks claim processing and detects fraudulent claims for health insurance companies. Curacel provides a web application to health insurance companies for collecting, processing, and paying health claims.
  • South African-born BIIS has developed Cyber Guardian, an early depression detector mobile application built on machine learning algorithm. Cyber Guardian uses access to end user’s mobile device activities such as social media lifestyle, chats, searches and emails to analyse an individual’s mental health.
  • Proudly South African 3D Prosthetic Hand is a low-cost, robotic prosthetic hand which senses the intention of the user, allowing them to hold a variety of objects as well as do intricate tasks like tie their shoelaces. The machine learning techniques enable the amputee to feel the objects they are holding.

Over 80% of start-ups at the SA Innovation Summit competitions are from the continent, and the majority have a revenue of less than R2 million, explains SA Innovation Summit chairperson Audrey Verhaeghe. Of the entrants, 7% are in the field of Biotech (healthcare) and 22% are classified as social entrepreneurs.

The Summit, taking place from Wednesday 11 to Friday 13 September 2019 at the Cape Town Stadium, aims to facilitate more than R1bn in deals between investors and start-ups.

“There is a yearning among African start-ups to disrupt the current healthcare industries on the continent through technology and innovative ideas. The healthcare industry is ripe for disruption and investors should be looking to the next generation of innovators for the ideas that will transform our continent,” says Verhaeghe.

Healthcare from the heart

One of the reasons the healthcare industry is perfect for tech disruption, is that many start-ups are driven by passion, with their founders looking to address a need close to their hearts.

Henry Mascot, co-founder and CEO of Curacel, developed a passion for healthcare at a young age after feeling helpless when he lost his father due to a “moribund healthcare system”. For Mascot, technology is the key to help Africa solve its healthcare challenges.

“We can see the massive impact of mobile phones in Africa. I am a big believer that for healthcare’s issues some can be leapfrogged using technology. We have limited resources and cannot follow the path other parts of the world used in getting to where they got to. We have to be lean, agile and leverage technology to build better healthcare systems that mirror African cultural behaviours,” he says.

Henry Mascot, co-founder and CEO of Curacel
Henry Mascot, co-founder and CEO of Curacel

3D Prosthetic Hand was also born as a passion project, says Project leader and Biomedical Engineer Abdul-Khaaliq Mohamed, after encountering many people in wheelchairs and those who have lost limbs.

“Our education and professional journeys have led us to apply cutting-edge technology to benefit the human body. Our 3D prosthetic hand simply aids upper limb amputees to do everyday activities again as well as hobbies which they have had to put on pause,” he says.

Abdul-Khaaliq Mohamed, Project leader and Biomedical Engineer, 3D Prosthetic Hand
Abdul-Khaaliq Mohamed, Project leader and Biomedical Engineer, 3D Prosthetic Hand

BIIS’ Khutso Bapela believes technology provides efficient solutions to improve quality of life on the continent.

Through our company we were able to contribute to the development of a variety of technologies that are currently improving how we live on a daily basis. Technology has been consistent in providing high quality healthcare and has played a crucial role in taking precautionary measures. A human life is a precious gift and once it’s gone, no one can retrieve it.”

BIIS’ Khutso Bapela
BIIS’ Khutso Bapela

 


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