Ghana’s budding health tech sector is finally getting deserved global recognition

Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu

Ghana’s long unsung health tech sector is getting global validation with two of its most promising startups being named among five winners for one of the most prestigious social enterprise awards in the world.

Accra-based mPedigree and mPharma will each receive $1.5 million from this year’s Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship, they were among just five winners from around the world and two of the three from Africa. The prize will enable them to build their scale and grow impact.

MPedigree uses a simple text message code that helps customers verify the authenticity of medicines. Across the developing world, fake medicine is a widespread problem which leads to deaths and is a major contributor to drug resistance, one of the world’s most pressing public health concerns.

In recent times, mPedigree has expanded to more regions and beyond the pharmaceutical industry. It now allows governments to certify crop seeds and cosmetics which farmers can authenticate on on their phones, helping to bring an end to the multi-million dollar global industry in counterfeiting.

“We need supporters like Skoll who truly understand the significance of what we have built, share our boldness and vision, and see our model as by far the best way forward”, says Bright Simons, mPedigree’s co-founder and 2015 Quartz Africa Innovator. mPedigree has expanded its scope beyond health and also operates in helping to authenticate seeds in agriculture.

On a mission to disrupt Big Pharma on the continent and other emerging markets, mPharma manages inventory for small independent pharmacies and their suppliers. The six-year old startup acquired Haltons, Kenya’s second largest pharmaceutical chain, last month, reversing a trend of startups being bought by more established businesses.

The acquisition, the startup’s first foray into East Africa will add 20 pharmacies to the 250 that already use mPharma’s technology platform in 11 cities in four countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe). mPharma has received financial backing from influential Silicon Valley investors as it focuses on its ultimate ambition of lowering the cost of drugs for ordinary patients across Africa.

“Our plans remain the same and that is to expand the number of pharmacies we manage so we can create more access points for patients,” said Gregory Rockson, founder of mPharma and 2018 Quartz Africa Innovator.

This latest award for two different Ghanaian health technology companies, will be seen as a significant validation of Ghana’s tech space which is often overshadowed on the continent by bigger markets in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The country’s nascent tech space is also set for more as Google this month officially opened its first artificial intelligence center in Africa in the capital, Accra.

The third African winner for the Skoll Award was Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator which operates in South Africa and Rwanda.

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