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In December 2022, the 31 African-led healthcare supply chain start-ups (selected by Investing in Innovation Africa teams in August 2022), convened in Lagos for the first Access to Market Event of the i3 Program. Held in the heart of this vibrant city, the inaugural flagship event facilitated introductions between startups, sponsors, partners investors, industry players and governments. The objective was to initiate contacts between the startups and key decisions makers to get mutually beneficial contracts, pilot projects and investments. Combined, they deliver health products to 25.000 clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and 2.4 millions Africans. 

Sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MSD, AmerisourceBergen, Chemonics International, Microsoft, and WHO-AFRO, the kick-off event gathered more than 50 institutional partners across government, industry and donors who held over 200 focused, demand-driven partnerships. Both innovators and industry players who attended the event reported that the speed networking and partnership discussion sessions were very beneficial.

Three crucial goals shaped the event: increasing the interest of industries, governments, donors, and donor-funded agencies to bolster supply chain effectiveness and resiliency through innovation, promoting understanding between health care supply chain innovators and their potential customers in the above-mentioned entities; and advancing 10 partnership discussions between health care supply chain innovators and potential customers or investors

It should be noted that 12 companies of the i3 program (almost half of the cohort) secured additional funding in the past 3 months, and have raised 5.4 million USD in grants, equity, and debt, on top of the original 50k$ grant provided by i3. They also expanded their activities at the national, regional, or continental level, which reinforces the continental scope of the program and the importance for this new generation of Health tech players to address the lack of access to healthcare services and supply chains for medical products and build an African health sovereignty.

At the event’s women’s luncheon, a session that gathered more than 40 participants who shared their experiences and learnings working in supply chain and tech as African women, we learnt that women leaders must be intentional about pursuing and facilitating collaborations, referrals, and mentorships. Also, sponsors and other ecosystems players need to open more doors, and facilitate more mutually beneficial collaborations with women-led innovators.

The event defined recommendations to enable women entrepreneurs to fully invest in the health tech market in Africa, especially in funding and securing opportunities for exposure in male-dominated ecosystem. Thus, sponsors and industry leaders should support women leaders by nominating them to benefit from learnings going on around the system.

As a reminder, the i3 program made gender equality a top priority in its selection criteria for startups, with nearly 47% of the companies selected being led by women (with at least one woman participating in the capital and playing an active role in management).

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sponsored by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), the WHO Regional Office for Africa, and AmerisourceBergen, among others, this project started in June 2022 and is led by Salient, SCIDaR and Southbridge A&I. The project aims to identify and support Africa’s most promising startups with significant contributions to the supply chain of healthcare products across the African continent.