[Interview] Kenneth Njeru, Director of Africa Afya Healthcare
Could you tell us about your company,Africa Afya Healthcare?
I started my company in 2019 October at the age of 20. My first immediate costs were registering my company which cost about 80US Dollars and having the website done at about 400US Dollars.
I had an interest in investing and I identified industries that were great and also brought change to the community, healthcare and Information Technology.
Initially, Africa Afya Healthcare was a company for doing mergers & and acquisitions (M&A) and investments in hospitals, with the use of capital from accredited investors and institutions. So I set out to build a pipeline of deals. M&A has its fair share of challenges.
I encountered unrealistic valuations from hospital owners and at times deceite in terms of getting false company earnings later on upon doing due diligence I would realise the business may fraction the earnings.
Covid-19 hit the first case in Kenya being reported in March 2020 and I remember at first thinking that it wouldn’t affect our business. I later realised how wrong I was.
Investment capital was down all across the world so getting interested investors proved harder than usual, the hospitals we targeted (medium-sized facilities) were affected by the pandemic since people feared that If they went to the hospital they would either contract the virus or find out they have it.
On top of that restricted travel, anytime I question my resolve to get something done, I remember the amount of hassle I went through to do a site visit to a hospital in Makueni County (about a 3-hour drive from Nairobi).
So with all the challenges that came with Covid 19 pandemic and the general economic slowdown I had a lot of time to think and I thought to myself that there are several facilities that may not be candidates for our primary business but can benefit from the technology we bring.
Later in the year, I witnessed efficiency by a modern hospital where a relative of my was admitted and again I thought to myself that things can be done better. Fast forward more than a year later in September 2022, we went into HealthTech business.
Today we offer a range of IT services and solutions, namely; Hospital Management Information Systems (HMIS), Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), Hospital Equipment Interfacing and Human resource management system (HRMS).
Our office is located in Karen Flame business centre, in Nairobi Kenya. I am the sole shareholder however have a team of amazing people who we work with both within the organization and our partners.
What industry/industries do you service?
We serve in the Healthcare sector, offering IT solutions to hospitals and on top of that investing in facilities.
What is your company’s growth strategy for 2023?
We have partnered with Datamate Infosolutions a global player in the HealthcareTech sector boasting of hundreds of hospitals and hotels as their clients and over 3 decades in the business. Today we are their African partner offering their solutions and tech support. We are currently aggressively promoting our solutions in Africa, especially Eastern Africa and are getting great traction for the clear quality we bring.
What are the long-term ambitions you’re aiming for, as an organization?
Long-term ambitions are for the company to be a leader in Africa in the health sector. This has always been the long term since inception, I have run the company on high standards and set out to make a difference to the entire Africa from the very first day, and even by the name itself, you can tell this isn’t just for a certain locality or within one country.
In a few years, I’d like to open an office in South Africa, the nation has a lot of potential and on top of that has some favourable funding options for businesses and greenfield projects.
Your company specializes in Health, which government policy should be in place to facilitate startups?
I was looking at the low-interest rates in the USA and thought to myself that if borrowing was that affordable in African countries, how big of an incentive it would be for the millions of unemployed youths who are being encouraged to do entrepreneurship since jobs are on a premium.
Which African countries do you predict will perform best economically in 2023?
Nigeria. Crude oil prices seem to be going up every month, even with this year being an election year for Nigeria I think their GDP will be just fine.
How will Africa develop its healthcare system in 2023 and how Africa Afya Healthcare can contribute?
This has been a topic I’ve had several times with my colleagues and even within the United Nations Africa Youth Health Caucus, of which I am a member. Healthcare is a fundamental right and it pains me that a huge majority of our population lack basic services.
The entire business world is in agreement that Africa is a market with great potential. Investing in hospitals and medical equipment by the investment community, NGOs, and governments will be fundamental in steering Africa towards attaining the United Nations Goal of Good Health and Wellbeing For all.
Travelling across Kenya for the past years looking for investment opportunities in hospitals, I would say that more needs to be done and I’m confident that it can be profitable for investors too.
Secondly is a paradigm shift which I’m glad to say is picking up across Africa but more people need to be brought on board. It's the shift from the traditional way of reactive healthcare whereby someone goes to the hospital once he or she has symptoms.
Today more effort is being put in encouraging the public and even having systems in place for early diagnosis, especially for terminal illnesses such as cancer. It is no secret that early detection heavily increases the likelihood of successful treatment, but it is also way more affordable.
This paradigm shift as it gets more and more acceptable by the public will not only reduce individual costs of treatment but the continent's health burden.
Companies not just those in the health sector but even those whose business has zero relation to health can be part of sensitizing the public. Corporate Social responsibility shouldn’t just be a word in the company brochure but really part of the organization's culture and engrained in its ethos.
Finally, we are now in the fifth industrial revolution and information technology is the tool. Facilities need to embrace technological innovations in order to store, retrieve and interpret data in record time thereby making informed decisions in a fraction of the normal time.
On top of that researchers will be a step ahead fall this fragmented information is gathered and analysed. This also will help medical practitioners monitor patients and act on this information before the patient's condition becomes severe.
What are the opportunities for Healthtech in Africa in 2023?
Telemedicine is picking up speed especially post the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced us to remain at home and order things. Some entrepreneurs thought why not healthcare and even facilities were forced to adapt and offer teleconsultation. We have several telemedicine start-ups that have secured funding.
Health apps that monitor someone's health and even remind the person when it is time to take medication. Today more than ever before we have a lot of things competing for our attention, our phones offer some much entertainment that we can forget to take care of ourselves. These apps at times work with diagnostic tools such as smart watches.
Health insurance tech is another major opportunity within this subsector, insurance fraud plagues the insurance industry heavily. Technology such as biometric scanning integrated with insurance records is cutting down on this fraud and making hospital claims paid without much hassle.
Kenneth Njeru is the Director of a Kenyan Healthcare startup, Africa Afya Healthcare