Zuri Health, the digital healthcare company which provides affordable healthcare via mobile, has secured $1.3 million in a pre-seed round to expand in Africa.
The funding round was led by DOB Equity, Launch Africa and Founders Factory Africa and attracted additional investments from V8 Capital, Platform Capital, Villgro Africa, Asime Ventures, and the Salik Family Trust.
Zuri Health connects mass-market patients with affordable, convenient, and quality healthcare services via SMS, WhatsApp and a dedicated app. The company initially launched in Kenya in January 2021 but is now present in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Zuri Health says it plans to use this recent investment to further build out its digital platform, grow its product offerings and launch operations in new markets. The company says it has so far partnered with mobile network operators in seven countries with over 400,000 SMS subscribers, over 300 doctors, 27 lab and diagnostic centres and 15 pharmacies across its markets.
Ikechukwu Anoke, CEO and Co-Founder of Zuri Health, said, “We are driven by the impact our service could have —to be a solution to Africa’s lack of sufficient healthcare. Healthcare infrastructure in most parts of Africa is grossly inadequate, with painfully high doctor-patient ratios. There are many Africans who cannot afford healthcare services or who live too far away from healthcare facilities. And with skilled healthcare workers increasingly leaving Africa for greener pastures, the situation is worsening,”
He added that “We have a burning desire to democratise healthcare access and harness the power of technology to provide quality, first-tier medical services.”
Efforts to scale quality healthcare services affordably remain a challenge across Africa. The World Economic Forum reports that the continent bears 25 per cent of the world’s disease burden but only has 2 per cent of the world’s doctors.
According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners & Dentists Council, Kenya only has an estimated 10,500 licensed doctors. Each doctor in Kenya would need to serve around 5,300 patients annually to meet the country’s demand for healthcare. Furthermore, understaffing at lower-level facilities in more remote parts of the country causes patients to crowd national-level hospitals in urban areas. This situation results in longer patient wait times and crippling pressure to meet even some of the most basic healthcare needs, let alone urgent, complex cases.
Zuri Health also announced that Dr Akintoye Akindele, Chairman of Platform Capital will also be joining the advisory board.
Saskia van der Mast, Co-CEO of Nairobi-based Dutch private equity firm DOB Equity, said: “We are excited to support the growth of Zuri Health as it builds an innovative and scalable platform that will enable access to healthcare for millions of rural and urban communities”.
Zachariah George, Managing Partner at Launch Africa, comments: “Zuri Health shows tremendous potential to scale across the continent and democratise access to healthcare. We truly believe in Anoke and Isiaho’s abilities to lead the path in the HealthTech sector in Africa.”.
Notably, there is limited access to healthcare services in Sub-Saharan African countries due to poverty, low education, inadequate healthcare systems, and a shortage of healthcare professionals. This has led to a mushrooming number of digital health startups keen on increasing health access in Africa via digital platforms.