• African startups offer good examples of m-health in action

Big pharmaceutical firms and healthcare organisations are helping to boost a burgeoning digital health market in Africa, according to Saravanan Thangaraj.

A research analyst for Frost & Sullivan, Thangaraj’s comments follow German firm Merck’s announcement that they are launching a new digital health accelerator in Nairobi. He highlighted Momconnect, a South Africa-based mobile phone application offering free on-demand medication advice and digital prescriptions, as a good example of ‘m-health’ in action.

“The m-health solutions in Africa supported by multinational healthcare companies generally focus on increasing health awareness and medical information,” he said. Africa startups have been helped by the arrival of mobile tele-medical centres fronted by global multinationals like Samsung.

"The solution serves a dual purpose: it supports the business goals by developing a skilled workforce, branding and consumer base; while, at the same time, improving the health conditions of rural inhabitants of Africa,” Thangaraj said.

He said that digital health accelerators such as Merck’s are offering financial and technical support alongside mentorship to help new ideas grow as profitable businesses.

Thangaraj said: “Many digital health solutions developed in Africa struggle to achieve a lasting change and significant return on investment. Lack of funding and feedback from the healthcare stakeholders are the common challenges faced by most of the digital health startups in Africa.”