Africa to See Healthcare Market Grow Exponentially

Private sector companies like GE, LeapFrog Investments and Babylon are finding Africa to be an up-and-coming healthcare investment target.

Private sector players have been watching Africa’s healthcare market closely as of late, with good reason: The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank affiliate, estimated the sub-Saharan Africa healthcare market was worth more than US$35 billion in 2016 and estimated it will see an additional US$30 billion in hospital and clinic investment by 2022. Companies like GE Healthcare, Siemens and Philips are adapting their business models to the needs of the region and tailoring their available diagnostic and imaging equipment to match the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases. Farid Fezoua, the head of GE Healthcare Africa, believes even analysts have underestimated the opportunity that the African healthcare market presents, especially given the disease burden shift away from communicable diseases. Despite the WHO’s estimation that one million Africans will die from cancer by 2030, necessary treatment options are predominantly unavailable. GE, however, has been proving its success in the region: The company uses an adapted finance model that has dedicated resources to train practitioners on its medical equipment, such as its portable ultrasound scanner. GE also secured a US$230 million partnership with 98 Kenyan hospitals in 2015 to provide diagnostic equipment to the facilities as well as stock 11 intensive care units. Babylon, a U.K.-based startup, has started offering telemedicine technologies in Rwanda and has a US$60 million artificial intelligence doctor in the works. LeapFrog Investments, a private equity firm, has invested in Kenya’s pharmacies that provide basic medical tests to consumers. And Netherlands-based Investment Funds for Health in Africa has invested in 12 companies and 40 clinics from Nigeria to South Africa. Though private sector involvement within the African healthcare market has been limited, the current investments are highlighting the paths that future players can take. —AA

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