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Top 21 Biotech Startups Creating Waves in Africa

By Oluchukwu Ikemefuna

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Biotech startup in Africa is experiencing a significant boom, driven by innovative startups addressing the continent’s unique challenges in health, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. 

Africa is experiencing a surge in biotech startups. The continent’s vast biodiversity, as well as its world-class universities and research organizations, stimulate innovation.

African countries have developed a number of biotech centers and incubators to help grow the biotech ecosystem and foster collaboration.

These startups are leveraging cutting-edge technologies to revolutionize sectors critical to Africa’s development.

Here’s a look at 21 biotech startups that are making waves across the continent.

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What is a Biotech startup?

A biotech startup is a new and innovative company that focuses on developing products and technologies using biological systems and organisms.

These companies operate in various fields, including healthcare, agriculture, environmental science, and industrial processes. 

Their work often involves cutting-edge techniques such as genetic engineering, molecular biology, and bioinformatics to create solutions that address significant challenges and improve quality of life.

Biotech startups are typically characterized by high research and development (R&D) intensity, and they often seek to commercialize scientific discoveries and advancements.

Top 21 Biotech Startups Creating Waves in Africa

Here are top biotech startups in Africa:

1. 54gene (Nigeria)

54Gene, based in Nigeria, employs its own gene testing platform to study the human genome further.

Less than 3% of the genetic data available now is from African populations.

54Gene promises to close this gap by providing precision medicine to the African people.

It also offers molecular diagnostics and genetic testing to doctors and patients.‍

54gene is pioneering the collection and sequencing of African genetic material to unlock novel insights into the genetics of diseases affecting Africans.

By creating a diverse genomic database, they aim to enhance drug discovery and precision medicine tailored to the African population.

2. mPharma (Ghana)

Founded in 2013 by Ghanaian entrepreneur Gregory Rockson, mPharma is establishing the groundwork to become the premier e-prescription network in emerging markets, beginning with Africa. 

At the height of the recent global epidemic, mPharma completed a $17 million Series C investment headed by British International Investment (previously CDC Group) and Novastar.

The mPharma network includes more than 850 pharmacies and 155 hospitals.

mPharma is revolutionizing pharmaceutical distribution in Africa by improving the availability, accessibility, and affordability of medicines.

Their platform ensures efficient management of drug inventories for pharmacies and healthcare providers.

3. LifeQ (South Africa)

LifeQ utilizes computational biology to convert biosignals from wearable devices into impactful health insights.

Their technology aids in health monitoring and chronic disease management, making healthcare more proactive and personalized.

4. Zipline (Rwanda)

Although a US-based company, Zipline has made significant strides in Africa by utilizing drone technology to deliver medical supplies, including blood and vaccines, to remote areas in Rwanda and Ghana, vastly improving access to healthcare.

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5. Koniku (Nigeria)

Koniku is at the forefront of biotechnology and artificial intelligence, developing neurotechnology that merges synthetic biology with silicon. Their innovations have applications in security, healthcare, and agriculture, demonstrating vast potential.

6. Jumo Health (South Africa)

Jumo Health focuses on creating educational health content to improve patient outcomes.

They provide medically reviewed resources that simplify complex health information, aiding patients in managing their health more effectively.

7. Medicina Group (Kenya)

Medicina Group is dedicated to developing affordable diagnostic tools and healthcare solutions.

Their innovations include portable diagnostic devices that enhance disease detection and management in underserved regions.

8. Releaf (Nigeria)

Releaf is enhancing the agricultural value chain by developing technology to process palm nuts and other crops more efficiently.

Their solutions aim to reduce post-harvest losses and increase productivity for African farmers.

9. Lumkani (South Africa)

Lumkani combines technology with community engagement to provide early-warning fire detection systems in informal settlements.

This innovative approach helps mitigate the devastating impact of fires in densely populated areas.

10. AgroCenta (Ghana)

AgroCenta is a digital platform connecting smallholder farmers to markets and financial services.

Their technology improves market access, enhances supply chain efficiency, and ensures fair pricing for agricultural produce.

11. BioPhyto (Benin)

BioPhyto focuses on sustainable agriculture by producing organic pesticides and fertilizers from local plant resources.

Their eco-friendly solutions promote healthier crops and reduce environmental impact.

12. YAPILI (Kenya)

YAPILI is an e-health platform providing remote health consultations and health data management.

Their service enhances access to healthcare professionals, particularly in remote and underserved areas.

13. SANBio (Southern Africa Network for Biosciences)

SANBio is a network of organizations fostering biosciences research and innovation in Southern Africa.

They support startups developing solutions in health, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture.

14. Dr CADx (Zimbabwe)

Dr CADx is an AI-powered diagnostic tool aimed at assisting radiologists in interpreting medical images more accurately.

Their technology improves early detection and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer.

15. Iyeza Health (South Africa)

Iyeza Health uses bicycles to provide last-mile delivery of chronic medication, ensuring that patients in hard-to-reach areas receive their essential medicines on time.

16. Synbiota (Kenya)

Synbiota is advancing synthetic biology in Africa by developing bio-based solutions for various industries, including agriculture and environmental management.

Their innovations contribute to sustainable development goals.

17. Bifarma (Nigeria)

Bifarma focuses on biotechnology applications in agriculture, particularly in improving seed varieties and crop yields.

Their research and products aim to enhance food security across the continent.

18. ABAN (African Business Angel Network)

ABAN supports biotech startups by providing access to funding and mentorship.

Their network of investors and entrepreneurs helps foster innovation and growth in the biotech sector.

19. Ilara Health (Kenya)

Emilian Popa founded Ilara Health in May 2019 to provide accessible and affordable diagnostics to Africa’s estimated 500 million impoverished population. 

The business collaborates with companies that use artificial intelligence and robotics to reduce the overall cost of diagnostics and incorporates their products onto its platform.

Ilara Health purchases technologically advanced diagnostic equipment at reasonable prices and makes it available to healthcare facilities, who pay overtime.

Ilara Health equips small healthcare providers with affordable diagnostic tools.

Their goal is to improve access to quality healthcare diagnostics in underserved communities.

20. Lifestores Healthcare (Nigeria)

Lifestores Healthcare is creating a network of pharmacies to provide affordable medicines and healthcare products.

Their innovative approach includes using technology to manage supply chains and reduce costs. 

21. Steward Health (South Africa)

Steward Health develops mobile health solutions to improve patient care coordination.

Their technology ensures seamless communication between patients and healthcare providers, enhancing overall healthcare delivery.

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How Are African Biotech Startups Addressing the Continent’s Unique Challenges?

African biotech startups are leveraging innovation to tackle a range of continent-specific issues, particularly in healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. Here’s how:

1. Healthcare Solutions

1. Improving Access to Healthcare: Companies like mPharma and Zipline are ensuring that medicines and medical supplies reach remote and underserved areas.

mPharma’s efficient pharmaceutical distribution system and Zipline’s drone delivery service are critical in bridging the healthcare access gap.

2. Enhanced Diagnostics: Startups such as Ilara Health and Dr CADx are providing affordable and accurate diagnostic tools.

Ilara Health’s portable devices help small healthcare providers deliver better care, while Dr CADx uses AI to improve diagnostic accuracy for diseases like cancer and tuberculosis.

3. Genetic Research and Personalized Medicine: 54gene is focusing on African genetic research to develop precision medicine tailored to the genetic diversity of African populations.

This research is crucial for understanding disease prevalence and developing effective treatments.

2. Agricultural Innovations

1. Boosting Productivity: Releaf and Bifarma are improving agricultural efficiency and productivity.

Releaf’s technology reduces post-harvest losses, and Bifarma’s biotech solutions enhance seed quality and crop yields.

2. Sustainable Farming Practices: BioPhyto’s organic pesticides and fertilizers promote sustainable agriculture by reducing the reliance on chemical inputs, thereby protecting the environment and improving crop health.

3. Environmental Sustainability

1. Eco-friendly Innovations: Startups like Synbiota are creating bio-based solutions that contribute to environmental sustainability.

Their synthetic biology applications help manage environmental resources more effectively.

2. Community-based Solutions: Lumkani’s early-warning fire detection systems are designed to protect informal settlements from devastating fires, thus enhancing community safety and resilience.

4. Technological Integration

1. Digital Health Platforms: YAPILI and Steward Health are enhancing healthcare delivery through digital platforms.

YAPILI offers remote health consultations, while Steward Health improves patient care coordination with mobile health solutions.

2. Data and AI: LifeQ and Koniku are integrating AI and computational biology to transform health monitoring and security.

LifeQ’s biosignal analysis and Koniku’s neurotechnology have broad applications, from personal health to agricultural monitoring.

These startups are not only addressing Africa’s unique challenges but also setting a precedent for innovation and resilience.

By leveraging technology and local insights, they are driving significant progress across critical sectors, contributing to the continent’s sustainable development.

Also read – Kenya Announces Plans to Develop National AI Strategy

Why are biotech startups important for Africa?

Biotech startups are vital for Africa for several reasons:

1. Addressing Unique Challenges: Africa faces distinct healthcare, agricultural, and environmental challenges. Biotech startups develop tailored solutions to tackle these issues effectively.

2. Improving Healthcare: These startups innovate in diagnostics, treatment, and healthcare delivery, enhancing access to quality healthcare for millions of people, especially in remote areas.

3. Boosting Agricultural Productivity: By introducing innovative farming techniques and crop improvements, biotech startups contribute to increased agricultural productivity and food security.

4. Promoting Sustainable Practices: Biotech startups develop eco-friendly solutions for agriculture, waste management, and energy production, promoting sustainability and environmental conservation.

5. Driving Economic Growth: The biotech sector creates employment opportunities and fosters economic growth through innovation, research, and commercialization of biotechnological products.

6. Fostering Scientific Research: These startups drive research and development in biotechnology, fostering collaboration with universities and research institutions to advance scientific knowledge.

FAQs

What is a biotech startup?

A biotech startup is a new company focused on developing products and technologies using biological systems and organisms. 

Why are biotech startups important for Africa?

Biotech startups are crucial for Africa as they address the continent’s unique challenges in healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. 

How does 54gene contribute to healthcare in Africa?

54gene is building a genomic database that focuses on African genetic material. 

What makes mPharma’s approach to pharmaceutical distribution unique?

mPharma enhances pharmaceutical distribution by improving drug inventory management for pharmacies and healthcare providers. 

How is Zipline using technology to improve healthcare access?

Zipline uses drones to deliver medical supplies, including blood and vaccines, to remote areas in countries like Rwanda and Ghana.

What innovations does Koniku bring to the biotech field?

Koniku merges synthetic biology with silicon to develop neurotechnology. 

In what ways is Releaf enhancing the agricultural sector?

Releaf focuses on improving the agricultural value chain by developing technology to process crops like palm nuts more efficiently. 

What is the focus of BioPhyto’s sustainable agriculture efforts?

BioPhyto produces organic pesticides and fertilizers from local plant resources, promoting sustainable agriculture. Their eco-friendly solutions help protect the environment and improve crop health, reducing reliance on chemical inputs.

How does Lumkani’s technology benefit communities?

Lumkani provides early-warning fire detection systems for informal settlements. Their technology helps mitigate the devastating impact of fires in densely populated areas, enhancing community safety and resilience.

What role does Ilara Health play in improving diagnostics in Africa?

Ilara Health equips small healthcare providers with affordable diagnostic tools. Their portable devices help deliver accurate diagnostics, improving healthcare quality and accessibility in underserved communities.

Conclusion

These 21 biotech startups exemplify the dynamic and innovative spirit of Africa’s biotech sector.

By addressing the continent’s unique challenges with groundbreaking solutions, they are not only creating waves but also paving the way for a healthier and more sustainable future for Africa.

In conclusion, biotech startups are pivotal for Africa’s development trajectory.

By addressing the continent’s unique challenges in healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability, these startups are driving transformative change.

Through innovative solutions, they are improving access to quality healthcare, boosting agricultural productivity, promoting sustainable practices, and fostering economic growth. 

Biotech startups are not only addressing immediate needs but also laying the foundation for a healthier, more prosperous, and sustainable future for Africa.

As they continue to innovate and collaborate, their impact will undoubtedly be felt across the continent, positively shaping lives and communities for generations to come.

Reference

Health Tech Startups in Southern Africa You Should Know

List of Biotechnology Startups in Africa

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Oluwatobi Olowe
Oluwatobi Olowe

Tobi Olowe has over 3 years of experience as a content writer specializing in Tech discoveries, site optimization, building content that rank well and boosting overall site performance.

Articles: 120

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