Nigeria’s tech entrepreneurs target healthcare and education

In a quiet residential estate in the elite area of ​​Ikoi in Lagos, near the main road that is blocked, employees of the medical technology company Medsaf are busy filling boxes of drugs.

The company supplies medicines, mainly to pharmacies and hospitals, through its digital platform and offers a guarantee of quality in a market filled with counterfeits. Vivian Nwaka, founder of Medsaf, says the company benefited from additional demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have reached new customers and expanded rapidly,” Nwaka said, adding that Medsaf, which operated only in Lagos State when it was established in 2017, expanded to 15 other Nigerian states last year. She hopes Medsaf, which will begin its Serie A funding round in June, will benefit from increased investment in technology firms specializing in healthcare and education.

Nigerian payment companies are at the forefront of innovation in Africa with an appropriate level of investment. But as the coronavirus pandemic focuses on healthcare, companies offering services ranging from technology for remote consultations to digitization of medical records are becoming more attractive to investors. Over the past two years, Nigerian distance learning companies have also seen an increase in investment.

“Funding for both sectors, Nigeria and Africa as a whole, increased significantly in 2020-21, especially for the health sector,” said Maxim Bayen, senior at consulting firm BFA Global, which tracks technology investments across the continent in a database. called Africa: The Big Deal.

Of the $ 209 million raised by African healthcare technology companies in 2021, about a fifth went to Nigerian firms, according to a database that ranked the country second only to South Africa. The $ 41 million invested in these Nigerian companies grew from $ 30 million in 2020 and only $ 6 million in 2019 – although they were less than the $ 835 million raised by all Nigerian companies last year.

Nigeria is even better in education technology. Of the $ 267 million raised by education and training companies in Africa in 2021, $ 229 million has been invested in Nigeria.

However, most of that money – $ 200 million – went to Andela, a software development school whose engineers worked for clients, including the GitHub software development platform and the entertainment group ViacomCBS. He is supported by the initiative of Chan Zuckerberg, a charity founded by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, who chose Andela for her first private sector investment in 2016.

Winning team: Entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji – pictured second from left with his co-founders Andela – says Nigeria’s young population offers a huge market for distance learning

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a technology entrepreneur and investor, says he has noticed increased interest in health and education as Future Africa’s general partner, venture fund and asset manager.

Oboje, who co-founded Andela and Flutterwave, which raised $ 170 million last year to more than $ 1 billion, said it plans to launch a $ 15 million fund for educational startups later this year.

“We are betting that people from anywhere in the world can learn new skills that are valuable around the world,” says Aboji.

He adds that Nigeria’s population of 200 million people, nearly two-thirds of whom are under the age of 24, is a huge market for distance learning.

In health, Aboji says the coronavirus pandemic has revealed a demand for diagnostic tests not only on Covid-19 but also on other diseases.

The genomics-based company 54gene in Lagos raised $ 25 million in September to fund the development of its sequencing and expansion capabilities in Africa. Since its inception in 2019, the company has attracted investments totaling $ 45 million.

As part of the expansion in December, the company launched a new division – 7RiverLabs – which offers molecular diagnostic services to African healthcare professionals. The company has opened sampling centers in four Nigerian cities – Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt – and plans to set up centers in other African countries.

“We want to increase our contribution to the global discovery of medicines by making extensive use of the science of life on the continent,” said Abbas Ene-Obong, CEO of 54gene, when the latest round of investment was announced. “We believe that the world will benefit from the African global drug discovery campaign, which uses profound ideas found in genomics research in different populations.”

The pandemic has allowed many Nigerian healthcare technology companies to prove their worth in the real world.

“This has demonstrated the value we offer and increased our visibility,” explains Ogenetega Jortim, CEO and founder of Gricd, a company that manufactures refrigerators to maintain the right temperature for medical items during transportation. The boxes are connected to Wi-Fi so they can be tracked. He says the company, founded in 2018, used to ship products for routine immunization of children, but Covid has raised its profile.

Nigeria’s primary health care agency, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, has invited Gricd to distribute 4.2 million doses of Moderna vaccine nationwide, which requires refrigerated storage, from August to November 2021.

Yortim says the company also worked for customers in Ghana and Gabon last year, transporting vaccines, Covid reagents and insulin.

Lifestores, which provides electronic inventory services to nearly 500 pharmacies in Lagos using patented software, has experienced a similar increase.

Brian Mesa and Andrew Garza, who founded the company in 2017, say the pandemic has helped demonstrate its value because pharmacies have long been the first port of call in African countries for patients, many of whom cannot afford to visit the clinic.

Mezu and Garza add that Lifestores, whose software also allows pharmacies to cut costs by aggregating orders, plans to expand in Kenya this year through a partnership with a network of pharmacies and a hospital.

While tech companies continue to dominate Nigeria’s starting landscape, Aboyeji believes interest in health and education will continue to grow in Africa’s most populous country because companies that focus on them offer solutions to “difficult problems in big markets” .

“Both sectors provide an opportunity to scale profits while bringing change.”

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