Building Bridges between Canada and Africa to Empower Innovators

This year, the University of Toronto had a unique opportunity to connect some of Africa’s brightest entrepreneurs with the thriving Canadian startup ecosystem, as well as Africa’s expanding diaspora community of investors and entrepreneurs in Canada. Twelve of the 2022 winners of the Health Entrepreneurship under African Impact Challenge were fully immersed in Toronto’s vibrant entrepreneurial community, gaining invaluable experiences and insights through a fully funded opportunity from June to August 2023.

Introduced by the Mastercard Foundation, the Africa Higher Education Health Collaborative is an international network of nine African universities and the University of Toronto. The Collaborative focuses on strengthening primary healthcare across Africa and empowering the continent’s health sector through transformative education and innovation through three pillars: Health Employment, Health Entrepreneurship and Health Ecosystem. To contribute to the Health Entrepreneurship Pillar, the African Impact Challenge connects health entrepreneurial ecosystems through knowledge exchange and collaborative practice on a global scale. The African Impact Challenge program aims to build the Africa we want to see, by investing in the continent’s early innovators, enabling them to build market-creating innovations which tackle their community’s biggest challenges with technology.

As one of the programs under Health Entrepreneurship in the Health Collaborative, the African Impact Challenge works to provide capital, resources, systems infrastructure, operational support, and strategic counsel to selected healthcare startups committed to driving social development and long-term economic growth in their home countries. This innovative program not only supported capacity building but also fostered intercultural learning for start-up founders by giving them the opportunity to visit Toronto for ten weeks. We had an exciting time capturing the founders as they shared their experiences throughout the ten weeks of their stay in Toronto. Here’s a snippet of how that went on.

The University of Toronto’s campus-linked accelerators the BRIDGE, ICUBE, and Health Innovation Hub (H2i) were the patrons of the African Impact Challenge visit to Toronto. Staff from the BRIDGE, ICUBE, and H2i were involved in the planning and implementing various sessions in the entrepreneurial-based programming.

The campus-linked accelerators offered comprehensive support to the venture founders, including individualized mentoring sessions and guidance on expanding their businesses through valuable connections with business development experts. In addition to enjoyable, educational and productive excursions like participating in entrepreneurial events such as the Collision conference, exploring Niagara Falls and visiting various business incubators in Toronto. The entrepreneurs immersed themselves in over 150 hours of training, mentorship and Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) curriculum integration throughout their visit. Additionally, the Office of the Vice President International (OVPI) and the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) organized special networking sessions for the founders. Originating from six different African countries, the visiting startups not only showed diversity but also displayed a remarkable level of innovation. Their solutions addressed a wide spectrum of healthcare challenges, in areas including sustainability, healthcare access, big data and artificial intelligence, wearable technology, mobility, and beyond. To learn more about the visiting cohort of entrepreneurs and their inspiring and groundbreaking ventures, you can explore their individual spotlights here: 2022 African Impact Challenge Venture Spotlights.

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Venture Spotlight: BetaLife Health

BetaLife Health uses artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize blood supply management across Africa. Their platform uses predictive analytics to optimize blood inventory levels, distribution logistics and donor engagement, thereby improving the timeliness and availability of blood for transfusions.

Venture Spotlight: Remedius Mobile Health

Remedius Mobile Health aims to combat the identified problems by leveraging telemedicine through the Remedius Live platform. They seek to provide fast virtual appointment scheduling with doctors and specialists at affordable rates of about five dollars and provide comprehensive care to chronically ill patients. This is executed through an integral network of facilities that provide physical care to these patients if need arises. 

Venture Spotlight: Powerstove Energy

Powerstove designs and manufactures smart smoke-free cookstoves that also self-generate electricity for users to charge their mobile phones and power home appliances using proprietary renewable bio-pellets as fuel. These sustainable, mosquito repellent bio-pellets are produced from post-harvest crops and wood waste.

Venture Spotlight: SnooCODERED

SnooCODERED aims to solve the problem of inadequate healthcare infrastructure (systems, facilities and human resources) in Africa. It is doing this by providing a suite of cost-effective mobile healthcare logistics applications that democratize access to the ambulance or first aid response, facilitate the delivery of medical supplies to diverse populations, and improve contact tracing and epidemiological modelling.

Venture Spotlight: Telemedan

Telemedan creates telemedicine kiosks in underserved communities in order to move toward closing the healthcare accessibility gap. Their kiosks facilitate video conferences between patient and doctor. They are equipped with medical devices for taking vital signs, such as ECG analysis, temperature measurement and blood oxygen saturation. Further, they feature stethoscopes, dermascopes, an HD camera and a scanner for the easy sharing of documents and lab results. With a focus on ease-of-access, Telemedan’s kiosks are user-friendly and accessible to those of varying levels of technology literacy.

Venture Spotlight: BuriCare Limited

BuriCare Limited has launched their Kangacare baby carriers, designed to address the critical need for newborn care, especially in regions lacking adequate neonatal facilities. With only four Neonatal Intensive Care Units available in their country, Kangaroo Mother Care emerged as a cost-effective solution, promoting vital skin-to-skin contact between mother and newborn to regulate body temperature. These locally knitted carriers are equipped with essential sensors capable of monitoring the baby’s temperature, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation. In the event of any abnormalities, an alarm alerts the mother to seek immediate assistance.

Venture Spotlight: A-Lite Vein Locator

The A-Lite Vein Locator is a medical device that facilitates the non-invasive detection of veins under the skin. Using the A-Lite Vein Locator shortens cannulation time by up to 88.5 seconds and lowers the risk of needle-stick injuries and infections. Further, the use of the A-Lite Vein Locator has been shown to decrease medical waste and unnecessary use of clinic resources. 

Venture Spotlight: Vas MedTech

Vas MedTech offers FlexiGyn, a portable, user-guided, and minimally invasive diagnostic camera that can operate in less specialized settings. This innovation is not only cost-effective, but also enhances accessibility. FlexiGyn enables community primary healthcare providers, such as nurses and general practitioners, to perform initial screenings and seamlessly consult with gynecologists for further diagnosis and referrals. FlexiGyn aims to make comprehensive women’s health care more accessible and convenient than ever before, thus addressing a global disparity in women’s health services.