Investing in Innovation (i3) Cohort 2
Due Date: 26th June 2023
Villgro Africa is proud to play a role in the next cohort of Investing in Innovation (i3), a direct response to some of the greatest challenges the health sector is facing. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that strong supply chains for medicines and other health products are critical to addressing a global health crisis. We must urgently strengthen supply chains before the next pandemic strikes and to create sustainable markets for health commodities now. This requires a new way of thinking that taps into the incredible talent we have in Africa.
African entrepreneurs have already proven they can achieve results with very limited resources (e.g. Zipline, Lifebank, mPharma). Local, data-driven innovators closest to delivery challenges can digitise supply chains in Africa to ensure they are resilient, agile, and responsive to the needs of patients. These strengthened supply chains will help countries prepare for the next pandemic and realize dramatic health gains against long-standing challenges (e.g. malaria and HIV treatment, contraceptives access).
We can find African solutions for African challenges by bringing together government, industry, and donors to create the scaffolding for entrepreneurs to succeed. At i3, we’re building a network across Africa to help structure commercialisation programs for start-ups to achieve the greatest impact for the public good. We will provide money, counsel, and market access to select companies with digital technology ideas for managing supply chains that will make quality health products available, accessible, and affordable to everyone who needs them. We are addressing long-standing inequities by seeking a diverse field of innovators, especially women-led, Black-led, and Francophone organizations.
This is a learning process – we can’t simply copy models from elsewhere. We don’t really know yet how to effectively support high-impact African innovations through public-private partnerships. Working alongside innovators is risky as not all interventions will be successful, and it requires new ways of partnering and contracting. We need tolerance for testing, piloting, and failure of health tech start-ups to help create the next generation of health care companies. We are advocating for nothing short of a new model for development aid.
Our work to create an ecosystem to inspire new ideas is just a first step. Donors and industries must seek partnerships with home-grown entrepreneurs. Countries must also create the regulatory environment to foster this kind of investment and innovation while strengthening their communities and economies. We need strong African institutions to take the lead in creating an enabling environment for business across the continent.
This focus on African ingenuity is long overdue – only by ensuring the face of innovation is African will the continent be equipped to achieve health gains and weather the next crisis. i3 is a state-of-the-art, pan-African initiative to help African entrepreneurs working on health care supply chains grow their companies. Ultimately, we aim to catalyse a new way to identify and strengthen Africa-led innovations.
We will begin by supporting the commercialisation of 60 promising early-stage and growth-stage start-ups with digital technology ideas for managing supply chains that will make quality health products available, accessible, and affordable to everyone who needs them.
i3 is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sponsored by a global network of industry leaders, donors, and African institutions. This network will offer select companies three critical resources to prepare themselves for expansion: a small grant, tailored counsel by innovation experts, and introductions to potential investors and customers.
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