Supporting the Development of the African Medtech Sector

Villgro Africa and Jaza Rift Ventures, in partnership with Rice360 Institute for Global Health Technologies, Kenyatta University, Ifakara Innovation Hub and PDP Forum are convening the first annual pan-African medical technology conference with the aim of building a vision for a comprehensive and transformative African medtech industry. 

African medtech

Learn more about why this event is important, what we mean by “medtech”, and the exciting things that are happening in the African medtech space!

The Importance of African MedTech Manufacturing 

Local development and manufacturing of medtech on the African continent is important for several reasons. Primarily is the issue of fit. Solutions will only actually solve problems when they are made with a deep understanding of the context in which they are going to be used. Medtech that is imported, whether through purchase or donation, is often not fit for purpose because of a mismatch between the equipment and the setting. Maybe the device doesn’t actually solve the problem or maybe the infrastructure available isn’t able to support the equipment to function properly.  Another issue is cost. If we can build medtech here in Africa, we can create solutions that both address a need and address affordability and accessibility.  

Related to manufacturing is supply chain; most components for medtech devices are imported and are therefore expensive and also attract taxes. There is an opportunity to locally develop inputs for medical technology; for example, electronic components. There are a few pioneers like Semiconductor Technologies Limited in Kenya that have started semiconductor manufacturing and Gearbox Europlacer that have a printed circuit board assembly facility. Tax exemptions for medtech components and raw materials would also be very beneficial.

Additionally, the deep knowledge gained from local development and manufacturing will build the capacity and skill-sets for maintenance of the equipment and will also increase access to spare parts.

What Exactly is Medtech? What is included? 

Everywhere you look, there are different definitions of medtech. We are choosing to include medical devices, wearables and internet of things (IoT), robotics, surgical equipment, rapid diagnostics and artificial intelligence as a medical device. There are other definitions and we may add other segments to the categorisation over time.

What is Being Done to Assess What is Currently Happening in the African Medtech Space? 

Villgro Africa is conducting a medtech landscape mapping; looking at the medtech ecosystem across Africa in order to get a good sense of who is doing what, from academia, innovators and startups to accelerators and incubators, manufacturing, prototyping, regulatory processes, intellectual property, and so on. 

The mapping exercise started with a literature review to see who has written about medtech on the African continent and ended up with over 60 papers. Then we went into desktop research, accessing databases with information on medtech startups, capital invested, manufacturing, supply chain and distributors of medtech as well as the medtech market. We looked at where they are located geographically as well as segments within the medtech space that they are working in. The next step is to put together surveys to go deeper and allow us to conduct case studies across the continent.

What Needs to be Done in the African Medtech Space Moving Forward? 

The medtech landscape mapping is happening in parallel to an event that will take place 24-25 August 2023. This “Transforming African Medtech Conference” is bringing together experts in the medtech space to discuss opportunities and challenges, learn from each other and find areas of potential collaboration. We plan to add insights from the conference into the landscape report and identify areas where we can dig even deeper over the next year. The conference participants will co-create an action agenda for the next year, which could include learning or working groups, fundraising, etc and will form the foundation of creating partnerships to transform the African medtech industry.

African medtech

At the heart of this effort is the need to grow the medtech industry to meet the healthcare needs of the African population, while creating economic opportunities and high-value jobs. There is a clear global disparity in the size of the African medtech market compared to other emerging markets. Hence the bringing together of Africans in the medtech space to work together in prioritising the efforts and partnerships that will accelerate the growth of the industry. We are beginning with conversations that highlight the most immediate needs, such as providing academic programs that support innovation and streamlining supply chains to enable high quality, cost-effective manufacturing on the continent. Other opportunities to be explored include how to attract more capital and investments for medtech startups, how to partner and engage with regulatory bodies and how to take advantage of trade agreements to open up cross-border markets. We believe that by fostering collaboration, we can truly accelerate the growth of a robust medtech industry in Africa.