Healthcare Innovation and Investment in Africa Event

Healthcare Innovation and Investment in Africa Event, April 28, 2020

African Diaspora Network Impact & Innovation Virtual Forums 2020


With a population of about 1.3 billion people and vast natural resources, Africa has tremendous opportunity to enhance its social, political, and economic development. These opportunities, however, are matched with significant structural challenges in healthcare. For example, sub-Saharan Africa carries 23% of the global disease burden, yet only accounts for 1% of global health expenditure.

While COVID-19 has primarily affected the Global North since its emergence, epidemiological models suggest the outbreak may accelerate in Africa, presenting a particular threat given its health systems are less equipped than others. As governments and health authorities across the continent strive to limit widespread infections, scaling up investment is vital. As stated by African and European leaders in a recent joint article, “only a global victory that fully includes Africa can bring this pandemic to an end.”

Investing in developing and deploying innovations made for African contexts is a crucial part of a successful global response. African innovators across sectors are driving promising efforts. For instance, in Kenya, 3D printing companies are designing and producing personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment to address shortages. Nigerian fashion designers are bringing glamour to masks to help raise awareness around social distancing. In Senegal, the Institute Pasteur in Dakar is partnering with the UK-based company Mologic to develop a faster, cheaper coronavirus test. Globally, scientists and innovators are collaborating at a landmark pace to develop new tools from vaccines and therapeutics to diagnostics and digital health applications – and it will be essential that these tools are created or adapted in ways that are suitable for different African settings.

Still, the challenge at hand remains unprecedented. There is a need, and an opportunity, for every individual, community and field to play a role, including Africans in the diaspora.


Bringing together members of the African diaspora, this session will discuss existing and new potential ways to harness health and development innovation to support Africa’s response to COVID-19. While recognizing the widespread social and economic damage that COVID-19 has already caused, the session will have a forward-looking focus on the opportunity to forge partnerships and support innovative solutions to save lives and support livelihoods across the African continent. Topics will include the role of Africans in the diaspora to support innovative African companies responding to COVID-19, how to spur economic activity across the continent in light of social distancing measures and opportunities and challenges in the digital health and biopharmaceutical sectors.

Key Questions:

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Kedest Tesfagiorgis leads the Global Partnerships & Grand Challenges team, building a global network centered in low- and middle-income countries that links creative scientific minds, resources, and focus to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and beyond.

JOSH GHAIM, PHD, Founder and Managing Partner, Ignite GB Inc.; Co-Founder and CEO, Small World Brands

Josh Ghaim is the Founder and Managing Partner of Ignite Growth Brands (IgniteGB), a new brand and innovation accelerator focused in the Health and Beauty markets as well as investments and support of Women and Minority led start-ups. Josh is also the Co-Founder and CEO of Small World Brands, the parent company of Nuria Beauty and Recharge Health brands.

NDEYE MAKALOU , Commercial Director, Roche

Ndeye Makalou is a highly motivated, courageous global transformational leader with 20+years’ experience in the biopharma industry, with expertise in project management, quality control, clinical and commercial operations in developed and emerging markets. Makalou uses her expertise in effectively leading complex programs from late-stage discovery to commercialization and my skills in building and managing effective multidisciplinary teams.

ADN Impact & Innovation Forum: Healthcare

April 28 Notes & Action Items

Context Setter, Kedest Tesfagiorgis

Moderator Kedest Tesfagiorgis laid the foundation of the discussion with participants to emphasize the global community’s need for a coordinated response to resolving the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panel Discussion

What are your companies doing in response to the pandemic, both locally and globally?

Are there health systems that we’ve put in place? Spaces to watch?

Infrastructure already in place – access to telephones, financial services – how do these help address health care needs?

What does it take to get out of this situation?

(Testing, preventive vaccines, drugs that makes people feel better once they are sick)

Issue of co-morbidity: Reading that there is a disproportionate impact on COVID-19 on African Americans and people of color; shows the trend of existing conditions, obesity, diabetes, etc.

Can you talk about communities here in the U.S. and what, if anything, we should be doing as members of communities and global citizens?

What are issues that disproportionately affect women and girls?

(whether that is through various roles as caretakers, heightened domestic violence, heavy burden in situations like this Gender equity and equality has to be built as part of our response; women as nucleus of their families)

Audience Q&A

Action Item:

To capture the energy of the discussion, African Diaspora Network will be releasing a follow up healthcare survey in the May newsletter to further assess the interests and actions that can be taken to support the ongoing COVID-19 response in Africa.

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