In an exclusive interview with nuviun, Ikpeme Neto, founder of Nigeria-based Wella Health, provides his perspectives on the opportunities for digital health in Africa.
A physician-turned-digital-health-expert has said Africa is in need of more digital health entrepreneurs and startups. In an exclusive interview with nuviun, Ikpeme Neto, founder of Nigeria-based digital health company Wella Health, believes instead of demanding more actions by the government - including enacting policies - the digital health sphere on the continent could greatly improve when there are more more entrepreneurs and startups.
“These are the only people that will be committed enough to see their innovations through. When the innovations start to take root then we can pressure government and policymakers into creating the 'enabling environment',” he said.
He noted that while there are a number of commendable digital health efforts, most of them remain at the early stage, thus only time will tell how they'll turn out.
“What we need now is collaboration and support from the wider tech and health eco-systems to break into the market,” he told nuviun.
He also identified resistance of the market as the common problem that needs to be “broken” in order for the industry to “see great progress”.
He said the greatest support the market needs is for startups to be given a chance.
“I've gotten negative responses from health providers who would potentially benefit from our innovation at little direct cost to them. If they’d said yes, we would have been a bit farther along,” he said.
He believes the stiff oppositions digital health entrepreneurs are battling with are of human nature that makes change difficult.
“It is human nature I think. Habits are entrenched and change is always difficult. There is also the perceived fear of upfront costs to go digital,” he said.
While there is no clear-cut solution to the habit problem, he believes an approach would be to make the value proposition to the users or patients.
“Those that are able to get it – the early adopters – will hopefully help prove the benefits and then convince other users and providers to come on board. That's the reason we are focusing the areas we are now – chronic disease patients and labs.”
Even with the mitigating challenges, he remains confident that there are many opportunities in the African digital health market, especially in Nigeria.
“I think there are multiple potentials as there are so many problems in health in Nigeria that tech could solve. Any committed entrepreneur with passion will make ultimately money in virtually any digital health endeavour. Not so sure it will be done easily, though,” he told nuviun.
Neto’s digital health company, Wella Health, has been selected as a semi-finalist in the GIST initiative's technological innovation competition. Out of over 800 applicants from across the world, 76 were chosen. If you like what Wella Health is doing, you can click here to vote.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.