Three healthcare startups in East Africa have each been awarded $50,000 in seed funding for winning the Frontline Health Worker (FLHW) Healthcare Innovation Challenge organized by Villgro Africa in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures (J&J Impact Ventures), a Johnson & Johnson Foundation investment fund. Launched in October 2021, the Challenge called on early-stage companies working to strengthen the capacity of FLHWs while improving access and quality of care in East Africa. After a thorough due-diligence process, Bena Care, Streamline and Zuri Health have been selected among the applicants to receive funding and incubation and advisory support. 

Bena Care is a Kenyan company providing home-based care, working to reduce the cost and increase the quality of healthcare, especially for the elderly and those with life-limiting illnesses. The company contracts healthcare workers, offering nursing, caregiving and physiotherapy services that are provided at the patient’s home. Along with improving care for patients, this provides an opportunity for FLHWs to gain access to alternative revenue sources. Bena Care also has a platform for buying and selling second-hand, used, home-based care equipment at more affordable prices.

“Bena Care is incredibly honored by the support that we are set to receive from the FLHW Healthcare Innovation Challenge. This will enable us to increase our lease of knowledge, expertise and resources available to make our services better and reach a greater audience. We believe that all of this, together with other opportunities to collaborate and increased overall brand awareness and equity, will skyrocket our business to greater heights in a few years.” - Naom Monari, Co-Founder and CEO of Bena Care

Streamline is an IT company in Uganda that leverages artificial intelligence to enable people at the bottom of the economic pyramid to access quality and affordable healthcare. They provide three primary products: (1) Stre@mline HMIS, a fully integrated health management information system; (2) Stre@mline SNAP, which anonymizes, aggregates and analyzes data for medical research and early epidemic warnings; and (3) Stre@mline Ubuntu, a digital insurance platform. Their Stre@mline HMIS system supports FLHWs by guiding them with suggested tips and next steps based on the information they put in the system.

"We are so excited about this support from J&J Impact Ventures and Villgro Africa. This will go a long way in supporting our scaling efforts to ensure that every patient can access and receive quality healthcare. Most of the funds will be used to do wide scale marketing and sales as we build toward sustainability and scaling. We hope to grow from the current 35 health facilities we support to more than 100 health facilities and to serve more 1,000,000 people from the current 650,000 that we currently serve." - Samuel Mugisha, Co-Founder and Director of Streamline

Zuri Health is a virtual hospital that is seeking to democratize access to healthcare in Africa. They link patients with quality, affordable and accessible healthcare services across Sub-Saharan Africa. Patients can gain access to a wide range of medical services through Zuri Health’s digital platforms, including their mobile app, website or via SMS. Zuri Health provides FLHWs with an easy way to manage their bookings and access to additional revenue sources.

“At Zuri Health we believe that great collaborations help foster growth and innovation for any startup. In healthcare, where access is poor in Africa, there is an even greater need to collaborate with organizations that understand our mission. Villgro Africa’s incubation and advisory services will help the Zuri Health team access resources that staff can use to develop their skills capacity, while the funding will help ensure that we continue to provide top-notch services when it comes to democratizing healthcare access in Africa as we expand to more markets, acquire more talent and develop our internal strategies.” - Daisy Isiaho, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Zuri Health

Villgro Africa, an incubator and impact investor supporting emerging healthcare businesses in Africa, launched this Challenge with J&J Impact Ventures, to support FLHWs, who are the backbone of any effective health system. They are often embedded in the community, take on significant personal risk and demonstrate resilience and creativity, yet they are rarely adequately appreciated for the work they do. The Challenge was looking for viable businesses that addressed some of the primary challenges that FLHWs face while also enabling them to provide high-quality healthcare to the populations they serve. 

“This collaboration between Villgro Africa and J&J Impact Ventures comes at a critical point when Africa is racing towards achievement of universal health coverage (UHC). FLHWs are a key pillar to UHC as they are the first line of contact with patients. We all witnessed first-hand the heroism of FLHWs when the pandemic hit in 2019. It thus gives us an opportunity to reinvest in these unsung heroes through technologies and platforms that will make their work easier. In addition to funding, Villgro Africa will offer technical assistance to the three winners to bolster their capacity as they go out to empower FLHWs.” - Wilfred Njagi, Co-Founder and CEO of Villgro Africa

Each of the companies awarded demonstrated a strong business case, an understanding of the problems they are seeking to solve and a strong team of innovative entrepreneurs. For more information on each of these companies, please reach out to Villgro Africa at [email protected] or see their websites below: