Investing in Innovation I3 Health Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Investing in Innovation I3 Health Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In March 2021, the consulting firm Southbridge A&I and its partner Salient Advisory published a joint report on the challenges of financing healthcare distribution companies in Africa. Following on from this report, Southbridge A&I, Salient Advisory and SCIDaR launched “Investing in Innovation” (I3) on June 22.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the tune of 7 million dollars, this program is intended to support around thirty companies per year, specializing in improving the supply chain of health actors in Africa, on the next two years.

In producing this report, we have listed the obstacles that HeathTech companies in Africa face. These include access to funding or the lack of interaction between public and private actors. Funding is often misdirected and there are too few structured mechanisms to distribute funds at scale explains Aïda El Kohen, consultant at Southbridge A&I.

The program is open to all African startups, led by African founders who are developing solutions for Africa, with the aim of solving problems related to supply chains in the health sector. Startups must be operational with a turnover already generated (…) The program is also open to more mature startups, which are in the growth phase says Salma Kabbaj, co-founder of Impact Lab, the Casablanca-based accelerator, which will coordinate the selection process and monitoring of North African companies. Startupbootcamp AfriTech (South Africa) will take care of startups from Southern Africa, Villgro Africa (Kenya) from those based in East Africa and Co-creation Hub (CcHUB) (Nigeria) from startups from West Africa .

Selected companies will be awarded a grant of $50,000 as well as a market access program by participating in various events that will be organized throughout the year. “I3” has strong partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA NEPAD), the World Health Organization AFRO (WHO AFRO), the Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) or AmerisourceBergen.

This program will connect startups with key stakeholders in the sector (public, private or investor actors, editor’s note). Our role as an incubator will be to prepare them for these meetings so that partnerships materialize. says Salma Kabbaj.

The pandemic as an accelerator of leap frog medical ?

African health innovators have shown a growing ability to leverage technology to optimize supply chains and advance access to medicines. These local innovations have the potential to change how supply chains and healthcare systems work – and it’s time to help them “, said Cheikh Oumar Seydi, Africa director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in a press release on June 27.

More than 60% of Healthtech startups in Africa have been created in the last 5 years, including 269 in 2020 alone “recalls Aïda El Kohen for whom” the pandemic has spurred innovation “. This development of e-health supported by international donors has accelerated since 2020, generating a multiplicity of innovations. ” To date, more than 400 startups have already shown interest in the “I3” program across the continent, including more than 50% from Nigeria “says Aïda El Kohen.

The distribution of innovations and the funds that accompany them remain asymmetrical. According to, African startups raised $1.8 billion in the first quarter of 2022 (twice as much as in 2021).

Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt alone attracted more than 83% of the financing raised (mainly in fintech, agritech, greentech and BtoB). ” Each accelerator will select 7 to 8 startups per region, as the objective is to give representation to each region in the final selection says Salma Kabbaj of Impact Lab.

Finally, this program intends to support the rise of women in African HealthTech. ” We ensure that they are strongly represented: from the composition of the selection committee to the selected entrepreneurs, including the sponsors and program partners (…) 15 to 20 of the 60 “I3” startups will be founded or co-founded by women. At the end of the 2 years, we will publish a study to better understand the obstacles, needs and challenges faced by the women we will support. adds El Kohen.

This 2-year program could be extended to 5 years and open up to other segments of HealthTech according to Aïda El Kohen. Applications are open until August 14, with the exception of Southern Africa where they will continue until August 21.