A TechCabal roundup about the
impact of the coronavirus pandemic
on Africa’s tech industry

MAY 17, 2020
This newsletter is a weekly special focused on the effect of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 on African tech and innovation ecosystems. Subscribe here to get it directly in your inbox every Sunday at 3 pm WAT. This edition is brought to you in partnership with Helium Health.


Beyond the gloom, there is good news. And a lot of it in this week’s edition, so much so that I’ll like to call this the good news edition.

As we examine industries and subsectors, one obvious seeming outlier in all this chaos has been healthtech and telemedicine startups.

As the numbers keep climbing in Africa, healthcare and health tech have been pulling ahead and making strides in
revamped business models, tweaks to regulations and business funding.

This week, we will be looking at interesting examples of some of these changes that will most likely outlive the pandemic.

But before you proceed, the effects of the pandemic on ride-hailing, e-commerce, video streaming, e-commerce again, fintech drones and human resources in the industry have
all been documented in the past weeks. Do take a look.

Now strap in!


To help in the fight against COVID-19 and ensure care provision continues during this pandemic, Helium Health is giving hospitals and clinics across Africa access to its telemedicine software. To sign up or get more information, contact team@heliumhealth.com.


Health tech shines.
In 2011, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) reportedly declared “Hello Doctor”, a telemedicine website illegal, and proceeded to shut it down.

Hello Doctor’s crime was not adhering to HPCSA guidelines that a doctor must be physically present to validate a telemedicine consultation; a conundrum that, when you think about it, invalidates the concept of telemedicine.

Since then, telemedicine in the country has been somewhat slow on the uptake. However, things have recently changed for the better.

Bullish on Africa conference, CEO of Recomed, a South African healthcare booking platform, Sheeran Amod mentioned that the South African government has reconsidered its previous no go stance on telemedicine.

In March, following the massive COVID-19 outbreak, a revision to the original HPCSA guideline stipulated that medical practitioners had to have established a relationship with the patients before a virtual consultation. This was a huge win, but there was an even bigger one.

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) appealed, citing social distancing rules, and the embargo was totally removed. According to Amod, this revision has legitimized telemedicine prescriptions, and advanced the sector in SA by 10 years.

Through technology and innovation, Africa’s healthcare systems may be the biggest winners yet in this pandemic, and there are pointers to this.

Another is the profitability and sustainability of hospitals and similar healthcare businesses.

Generally, healthcare institutions in Africa are criminally underfunded and neglected. And this is a major problem for the continent’s steady growing population.

In April 2001, countries in the African Union met in Nigeria and pledged to allocate at least 15% of their annual budgets to healthcare. According to this report, 10 years later, it did not happen. And may not happen anytime soon.

One week after Helium Health closed a $10 million Series A funding round, the Nigerian healthtech startup that digitises medical records for hospitals has revealed plans to fund healthcare businesses in the
country and across Africa.

Speaking to TechCabal, CEO and co-founder of Helium Health, Adegoke Olubisi, said hospitals and related healthcare businesses in Nigeria do not grow because they are not treated as proper businesses. He said most of them have never raised external funding, which they
desperately need for scale.

Generally, most businesses in Nigeria struggle to access institutional funding, and without proper documentation, Olubisi knows the struggle will be multiplied for healthcare businesses, and is looking to change all that across Africa in the nearest future.

For starters, Helium Health’s $10 million may not sound like a lot, but in the grand scheme it definitely is the catalyst needed on the path to financially standardising businesses in this critical sector.

Biotech startup 54Gene has also been in the news a lot. Less than a year after raising a $4.5 million seed round to build the world’s first African DNA bank, the biotech startup recently announced a $15 million round to scale this effort.

importantly, it has also been at the forefront of COVID-19 response in Nigeria with a $500,000 fund, and mobile laboratory to boost testing.

It is unsurprising that most of this progress is championed by entrepreneurs and startups.
Speaking at the Bullish on Africa conference Ventures Platforms Managing Partner and investor, Kola Aina said entrepreneurs will build Africa. With COVID-19 as a catalyst, healthtech entrepreneurs are doubling down.


An African biotech company partners the world’s largest airline manufacturer.
In early May, when TechCabal’s Alexander Onukwue first talked to Nigeria-founded biotech company, Koniku, they were launching a flagship device Konikore; a technology that can smell and detect a range of present diseases, from lung cancer to COVID-19.

caught up with them, and Koniku was partnering Airbus to install the Konikores on its planes for detecting biological hazards, and spotting chemical and explosive threats

Jumia is doing fine. Despite a global recession, Africa’s Amazon, Jumia posted operational losses of $47.4 million in Q1 2020, lower than losses from both previous quarters.

The e-commerce giant also posted a revenue of $31.79 million for Q1 2020 from 6.4 million e-commerce orders; a 6% decline from $34.1 million in Q1 2019.
Abubakar Idris explains why this is so, Jumia’s growing balance sheet, and the role Jumia Pay has to play in all of this.

Why should we be bullish on Africa? Last Friday at our first virtual conference, Kola Aina, Founder, Ventures Platform; Ben Harburg, Managing Partner, MSA Capital; Amandla Ooko-Ombaka, associate Partner at McKinsey&Company and a host of other speakers attempted to answer the question; why should we bullish on Africa despite the ongoing health and economic crisis?

“The only way to get out of a rut is by building,” Kola Aina said. A piece of advice to entrepreneurs; “Don’t mix up COVID-market fit with product-market fit,” Dotun Olowoporoku, Associate Investment Director, Novastar Ventures warned. Recordings from the event will be out soon but you can catch a recap on Twitter. Also, dive into the keynote presentation by Kola Aina.


Fitbit is reportedly planning to build ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients.
The company makes fitness-tracking wearables but will be shifting supply chain resources to make emergency ventilators. It aims for the ventilators to be the “most advanced” emergency user ventilator available for a “lower” cost, but that a price hasn’t been determined, according to CNBC.

Everlywell gains first FDA authorization for a standalone, at-home, COVID-19 test sample collection kit. This approval is unique because Everlywell is offering its sample kit independent of any specific testing lab, and can work with a variety of labs to potentially provide a broader testing footprint.


Advice on how to get advice: How founders can cut through the noise.
An abundance of support and high-quality advice can make all the difference in times like these. However, founders could feel like they’re drowning in a sea of well-intentioned but overwhelming and often contradictory guidance. This article outlines how founders can cut through all the counsel they’re receiving to hone in on the most crucial insights.

A Back to Work ToolKit. If you absolutely have to re-open your office, Maradona Venture Group and some partners put together a repository of documents to help founders and HR leaders build a Safe Work Plan for Back to Work. The repository is a result of more than 50 conversations with HR leaders, government and health officers.

Best wishes for a great week

Stay safe and please observe all the guidelines provided by health experts.

You can subscribe to our TC Daily Newsletter; the most comprehensive roundup of technology news on the continent, and have it delivered to your inbox every weekday at 7 am WAT.

Follow TechCabal on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay updated on tech and innovation in Africa.

– Victor Ekwealor, Managing Editor, TechCabal

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