A new programme is aiming to bring innovative systems to health care in Africa.
An initiative based in Switzerland has created an African health drive calling on innovators and entrepreneurs to help think of sustainable solutions to health challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. The deadline, originally Friday, May 21, has been extended to Friday, June 4.
Mirahi, a start-up programme developed and run by the University of Basel’s innovation office, began the African health innovation challenge by opening applications earlier this year. The challenge is one of many ways it hopes to efficiently distribute vaccines.
A media statement released by Mirahi said they “welcome innovations that cover a broad range of health system challenges addressing delivery, availability and accessibility of medical commodities”.
As a partner of the University of Basel, Tshimologong Digital Precinct (“a 100% Wits University-owned digital hub based in Braamfontein, where the incubation of start-ups, the commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth takes place”) has helped in the challenge.
“[Tshimologong] has helped in reaching out to potential entrepreneurs,” Douglas Haggstrom, the manager of the Mirahi Accelerator, told Wits Vuvuzela. “We are hoping, as we go forward, [to] help those entrepreneurs grow and be ready for working with healthcare systems.”
Haggstrom believes healthcare systems need more innovation, and he says entrepreneurs are able to bring about such innovation. “What we want to do is bring that energy and skill together with the existing healthcare system and [see] how they can connect,” he said.
The University of Basel innovation office has also teamed up with Wits Healthcare Innovation (WHI), a medical division supported by the faculty of health sciences. WHI, whose primary focus is the integration of health and technology, formed its relationship with the University of Basel through the start-up accelerator, Endeavor South Africa.
“[Endeavor SA] were approached by Basel’s innovation office,” said Benjamin Ozynski, WHI director of business development. “Specifically with regards to this initiative, Endeavor then put us in touch, as they thought we would be the right partner.”
WHI brings the healthcare perspective to the African health innovation challenge: “We are going to be on the steering committee, and we are going to be looking at all the applications, specifically from a healthcare point of view,” said Ozynski.
Haggstrom and Ozynski believe collaboration is key when trying to create better healthcare systems across sub-Saharan Africa. Ozynski says the merger of technology and healthcare allows for a union of different fields of expertise in solving complex problems. “It allows for cross-collaboration,” he said.
Ozynski believes the connection between the University of Basel innovation office and Wits is important when it comes to solving problems in healthcare. “In South Africa our challenges are so unique, and we have to innovate from the ground up here in order to truly address the challenges,” he said.
FEATURED IMAGE: Mirahi are calling on innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa to help come up with a way to efficiently distribute vaccines. Photo: Provided