The emerging technologies in Africa are bridging the digital gap in Africa bringing in change and solutions to solve some of the challenges in Africa.

The health care sector is one area that has benefited a lot from these innovations bringing value and sustainability in the sector. There is hope that these new technologies could transform Africa’s Health Care System.

Meet Simon Manyara, a Pharmacist by profession and an Afrika Kommt! Programme fellow from Kenya who shared with us his inspiring career path. Simon is currently the operational lead of the Making More Health (MMH) Accelerator in Kenya. Making More Health, a long-term initiative of the German Pharmaceutical Company Boehringer Ingelheim based in Ingelheim, has partnered with Ashoka, an NGO with one of the largest network of social entrepreneurs globally, with the goal of improving health in communities around the world by identifying and supporting the most promising solutions to challenging health problems.

What motivated you to join the Afrika Kommt! Programme?

I worked before in western Kenya with the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) developing health care access programmes. Having worked with AMPATH for about 6 years, I felt that I needed to get a new challenge, get exposure to some of the supply side dynamics of the health care market. My previous role focused mostly on  the demand side, and involved direct interactions with patients through different access programmes. I felt that working with a pharmaceutical company would allow me to get a really rounded  and  holistic view on health care delivery across different socio-economic segments. This is what strongly motivated me to join the Afrika Kommt! Programme with Boehringer Ingelheim in 2015 for the training, and managed to relocate back to Kenya to continue working with the MMH initiative.

About the Afrika Kommt! Programme:

Afrika Kommt! is an initiative which was established in 2008 by German companies. The initiative targets young African Managers who spend one year working in Germany undergoing training within the partner companies. Interested to find out more about the AK programme? Listen to our interview with  Collins Agoro, alumni of the programme who shared with us in details about the programme.

What lessons did you learn from the Afrika Kommt! Programme that equipped you to be able to operate and work with a German company in Kenya?

It was a great eye opening experience for me. I learnt a lot of things having the opportunity to work in the headquarters of such a large pharmaceutical company and live abroad. I learnt a lot about planning and structure which, in my opinion, are competencies that have enabled the society in Germany to prevail and perform well in industry.  This combined with agility  creates a really good balance that allows one to be  entrepreneurial but also be smarter on how to take risks and  approach situations. Coming back home with the new skill sets, exposure and  mindset has helped me to find balance and flexibility in delivering and doing knowhow transfer within the German subsidiary in Kenya.

From our point of view, KGCEN is convinced that the Afrika Kommt! Programme is a win-win for both; where German companies get a better understanding of the African Markets and the African managers get the exposure of the German business culture equipping them with knowledge on how to be better managers and leaders.

You are currently the operational lead of MMH Accelerator Programme in Kenya targeting innovations to add value to the health sector. Tell us more about the Accelerator Programme

Making More Health is an initiative that was started in 2010 when the company was celebrating its 125th birthday. The initiative aims to improve health in communities worldwide by combining social and business sectors. This is where the partnership with Ashoka came about, and we have multiple work streams, although the Making More Health Accelerator is the one I have operational oversight over.

What is the structure of the MMH accelerator programme?

The MMH Accelerator Programme is a one year structured programme where we engage  with social entrepreneurs in a co-creation process. The social entrepreneurs bring in a lot of innovation and market awareness, while we provide  business skill sets that can ground them and position them for success and scale up. The initial process starts with  business and  market analysis. Once we have a concrete idea then we are able to move  to the pilot phase, which usually runs for a period of about 6-8 months. Once this is completed, the enterprises are able to pitch for scale-up funding. This can come either through Boehringer Ingelheim but we also try and connect them to other investors who might be willing to partner with them.

What are the requirements to join the MMH?

  • We usually target businesses that are already operational for at least 2 years. We are looking for companies that are already running on the ground who would get value from us coming in and offering them  our expertise and insights on how we do business.
  • We also target companies working in health care, primarily ventures working in non-communicable diseases. We feel there is a huge burden in the society and we are in a position to add value from our expertise.
  • The business has to be socially driven, meaning that they are trying to solve a social need.

When is the call open for application?

The call is usually opened between November/December until February. Currently only startups from Kenya, Ghana or Nigeria can participate in the accelerator program.

Benefits of joining the MMH Programme

  • Benefits of working with partners who are committed to improving access to  health care.
  • Exposing the companies to network with peers because there is value that comes  from peer to peer collaboration in the programme.
  • Knowledge sharing – We share business expertise but we also learn a lot as a company from these enterprises and get a lot of insights into current innovations in the health care sector.

MMH Programme Call 2018

Four social ventures had the opportunity to participate in the 2018 – 2019 accelerator program. During the programme, they proposed their business models to Boehringer Ingelheim for seed funding to pilot their models. The business models pitched ranged from supply chain optimization, last mile distribution and digital health. Access Afya and Health Entrepreneurs won and received a funding of €150,000. Read more here: >>MMH winners selected. 

Could you highlight some of the great innovations you have come across on the ground? I know of the trend of the innovations in Africa is on high trend especially with the access of the internet and the mobile phones. I have read about a few like Access Afya providing mobile clinics in Nairobi area…..

All the companies that I have personally interacted with are amazing and outstanding. One of the areas that we have been working in is chronic disease management, specifically diabetes and hypertension. Access Afya is a great example doing great work in the slums of Nairobi providing quality care with very good outcomes. We have been working closely with them on non-communicable diseases on building a disease management programme. We have also worked with other entrepreneurs that are developing supply chain solutions in rural areas and building last mile delivery of medicines. Unless one has been on the ground to see the need that is there for a lot of patients who for various reasons are not able to get access to medical facilities, it may not be easy to comprehend the social impact that these social ventures are having. You can imagine an old lady who cannot travel far and  has needs for medication is having enterpreneurs offer her solutions to her needs. These are innovations that are very inspiring to me personally, and I have encountered many other entrepreneurs doing brilliant things.

This is our second cohort and we have so far interacted with great entrepreneurs. Some are in the tech space finding solutions to disease diagnostics.

To provide some context, the healthcare system in Kenya and most of sub Sahara Africa is quite fragmented and I personally believe that there is need to have an eco-system approach. So you cannot just have one solution that comes in and delivers 100 percent. The objective is to set up partnerships that bring these ideas together and create a holistic solution that can serve patients in the short and long term.

Sam Agutu from Kenya, the Founder of Changamka is among the MMH Fellows that have been solving different problems in diverse areas in the health care sector. Changamka was founded on the belief that Mobile Technologies can be leveraged to improve the demand side financing initiatives to improve access to healthcare for the lower economy, underserved populations in the developing world. Sam uses a technology based approach pairing mobile phones with health insurance smart cards which are available for purchase in any grocery store throughout the country. Read more about Changamka here.

The healthcare system in Africa has been facing several challenges making it very unstable. I believe the positive technology aspect that is in the market is there to bring in change and stability into the system making it affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. How has the accelerator programme contributed so far to shaping up this dynamic sector and bringing that sign of hope especially in Kenya?

Our core goal is to be in a position to spur innovations in the healthcare sector by working with social entrepreneurs, who are very passionate and committed to offering solutions. I believe we are creating dialogues, creating opportunities for people to engage in finding holistic solutions. I believe that we can also be thought leaders and help inspire others through innovations that create positive change.  

Before we finish our discussion, there are people who would like to join the Afrika Kommt Programme. How should they prepare themselves prior to joining the programme? What do they need to bring along as they join the German companies?

From my personal perspective, the best thing you can do is to have an open mind and be willing to take steps to reflect. I experienced a lot of things and what helped me a lot was to take a step back and reflect on the new business environment and culture. I had to evaluate how the exposure would help me to perform better and be more effective in the way I do things. The advantage of working with a multinational company is that you get to work with a lot of diverse people from all nationalities. So all these interactions are learning experiences and opportunities.  My advice is for the AK participants to have an open mind. This is a blank page you are given; decide what to do with it and make the most of the opportunity.

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