In the grand symphony of life, there exists a refrain that echoes through the ages – “My Health, My Right.” It’s a melody that sings of the inalienable right to health, a chorus joined by voices from every corner of the globe. On this World Health Day, we tune our hearts to this profound theme, amplifying the call for Universal Health Coverage (UHC)—a promise of care that leaves no one behind. Amidst the verses of innovation and progress, we celebrate the individuals and ideas orchestrating a healthier world for all.

In embracing UHC, we recognize that it isn’t merely a goal; it’s the foundation of health and well-being in communities around the globe. The second edition of the Africa Young Innovators for Health (AYI4H) Awards has highlighted this theme, honoring young innovators driving us towards UHC. By highlighting these pioneering innovations, we affirm our dedication to a future where health services are universally accessible everywhere.

Pharmarun: Redefining medication access

Teniola Adedeji’s Pharmarun stands out as a beacon of innovation, clinching the first prize for its impact on medication accessibility. “Pharmarun is like a trusted partner for healthcare professionals, ensuring that patients receive their medications exactly when and where they need it,” Teniola describes. “It was born from a simple yet profound belief: everyone deserves their medication on time. This innovation saves patients and healthcare providers time fosters better adherence to treatment plans and prevents delayed treatment outcomes. It’s about being there for those who need us, ensuring that distance or circumstance doesn’t keep anyone from their right to health.”

Photo-Kabada: Pioneering care for newborns with jaundice

Moses Ochora’s Photo-Kabada shines a light on the critical area of neonatal care. He eloquently shares the vision that led to its creation “Photo-Kabada was born out of a need for a phototherapy device that caters to health workers in low-resource settings – a one-stop point for a baby with neonatal jaundice. We innovated around the demand to treat more than one baby, monitor their vitals, and have a solar-powered battery to solve the load-shedding issue. Our device offers comprehensive care for a sick newborn baby with jaundice. Photo-Kabada is designed to support a doctor or nurse in a low- or middle-income country NICU, but it is more than a device; it promises every child the right to a healthy start in life.”

Neosave: Advancing neonatal care with a personal touch

Nura Izath discusses Neosave, a crucial technology for newborn care, offering tools that assist healthcare professionals in improving survival rates and health outcomes for the most vulnerable patients. She explains, “Neosave emerged from the deepest place of love and concern—watching over a newborn and feeling the weight of responsibility. It’s our way of saying, ‘You’re not alone’ to healthcare workers and families.”

Trash 4 Health: Turning waste into well-being for all

Muhammad Abdullahi’s Trash 4 Health introduces an innovative approach to healthcare access. He shares,”With Trash 4 Health, we’re not just cleaning up the environment: we’re turning every piece of trash into a chance for better health. It’s about ensuring that ‘My Health, My Right’ extends to every corner of our communities, especially where it’s needed most.”

As we celebrate World Health Day, we delve into the narratives of those making “My Health, My Right” a reality. Through the lens of the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award, we envision a future where innovation supports healthcare delivery and solidifies the foundation for a world where health coverage is truly universal.

As we step into Women’s History Month,  women innovators, Sheeba Niwensiima and Nura Izath bring their passion and groundbreaking insights through two standout webinars.

Sheeba Niwensiima, co-founder of Photo-Kabada and the distinguished first prize winner of the Africa Young Innovators Award’s second edition, will illuminate the Galien Africa Association’s webinar on 12 March. Themed “Women in STEM in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges,” the event aims to narrow the gender gap in STEM. Niwensiima’s story is a testament to the empowerment of women in STEM, emphasizing the importance of overcoming obstacles and capitalizing on opportunities.

Nura Izath, the visionary behind Neosave and the second prize laureate of the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award, will grace the African LeadHERs Forum on 14 March. Organized by Speak Up Africa, the forum addresses the urgent need for sustainable investment in women, breaking barriers, and fostering financial support for women-led ventures. Izath’s participation underscores the pivotal role of innovation and female leadership in achieving gender equality.

On International Women’s Day, both innovators shared their perspectives:

Sheeba Niwensiima sees International Women’s Day as a beacon of progress, a time for reflection on her personal journey, and the collective strides toward gender equality. “It’s a celebration of resilience and determination, honoring the women who inspire us to push boundaries and innovate,” she notes, emphasizing the day as a reminder of the continuous growth and innovation potential despite obstacles.

Nura Izath celebrates International Women’s Day as a tribute to women’s remarkable contributions to innovation. “It’s a day to honor the collective and individual perseverance and creativity of women facing challenges,” Izath reflects, highlighting the importance of recognizing women’s advancements and the journey still ahead.

Sheeba Niwensiima sees International Women’s Day as a beacon of progress, a time for reflection on her personal journey, and the collective strides toward gender equality. “It’s a celebration of resilience and determination, honoring the women who inspire us to push boundaries and innovate,” she notes, emphasizing the day as a reminder of the continuous growth and innovation potential despite obstacles.

This International Women’s Day let’s draw inspiration from Sheeba Niwensiima and Nura Izath’s resilience, inclusivity, and advocacy for sustainable investment in women’s empowerment. Their stories not only spotlight the barriers women face in breaking through but also celebrate the significant strides toward a more inclusive and equitable future.

7 March 2024 – The Africa Young Innovators for Health Award proudly commenced its mentorship program with a successful kick-off on 4 March, signaling a pivotal step forward in nurturing health innovation across the continent. This three-month program is designed to link promising young innovators with distinguished business leaders, enhancing their impact on healthcare solutions in Africa.

The program boasts a lineup of esteemed mentors, each paired with an innovator, to provide targeted guidance and support.

Carl Manlan, Vice President of Inclusive Impact & Sustainability at VISA, will mentor Muhammad Abdullahi of Trash4Health, sharing his extensive experience in sustainability, social impact and inclusive finance. Pier Spinazze, specializing in Venture Capital at Launch Africa Ventures, founder of PASSMED and co-founder of Bluum LTD.  pairs with Dr. Moses Ochora of Photo-Kabada, to navigate the complexities of health innovation investment. Chahir Fahmy, an expert in business development and digital transformation will offer his tech-forward insights to Nura Izath of Neosave, focusing on leveraging technology for health solutions. Finally, Nithya Ramanathan, CEO & Co-Founder of Nexleaf, brings her entrepreneurial spirit and innovation expertise to guide Teniola Adedeji of Pharmarun.

The mentors shared their enthusiasm and wisdom for the journey ahead. Chahir Fahmy offered a realistic yet supportive perspective, saying, “I cannot tell you that I will have all the answers, however, we can figure it out together.”

Pier Spinazze reflected on the value of mentorship based on his experience, noting, “Having mentored before, I know the impact of positive leading can have on entrepreneurs.”

These mentor-mentee pairings are at the heart of the mentorship program’s mission to accelerate the development of groundbreaking health solutions. Through personalized guidance, these young innovators will enhance their leadership skills, business acumen, and capacity to innovate, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in public health across Africa.

The Africa Young Innovators for Health Award is dedicated to empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs in the health sector, ready to face the continent’s health challenges with innovative solutions. As the mentorship program unfolds, it promises to be a transformative journey for both mentors and mentees, underlining the award’s commitment to improving health outcomes throughout Africa.

For further details on the mentorship program and other initiatives by the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award, please visit https://africayounginnovatorsforhealth.org.

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are honored to feature Teniola Adedeji, the pioneering winner of the Africa Young Innovators Award in October 2023 for ‘Pharmarun’. This year’s theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ resonates through our column as we explore Teniola’s impactful journey, her contributions to science, and how her work exemplifies the critical need for women’s inclusion in scientific fields to forge a better world. The Q&A has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

 I worked in a pharmacy for about 7 years before starting Pharmarun. During that period, I noticed how difficult it was for an average person to get all their medication in one pharmacy. People often had to visit multiple pharmacies and it was a chore. I realised that, as a pharmacist, I had the internal knowledge to easily leverage my colleagues to get medications faster. This realization sparked the idea for Pharmarun, a platform to streamline medication access and improve healthcare delivery for all.

Pharmarun is an on-demand platform that offers a convenient solution to fragmented access to essential medications. By aggregating a network of pharmacies, we provide the largest medication inventory and increase affordability, enabling users to access their medication when and where they need it. We also provide advanced pharmacy experience by enabling virtual consultations with licensed medical professionals, automated medication refills, laboratory test bookings and quick health checkers such as BMI, Calorie and ovulation checkers. 

Pharmarun saves people time and money spent in wandering from pharmacy to pharmacy and delaying treatments. People can access any of our services from medication purchases to consultations and pay conveniently via our finance partners immediately or in instalments. Pharmarun is helping to improve health outcomes and reduce preventable deaths.

I hope my achievements will serve as a source of inspiration and empowerment for other young women and girls to pursue careers in science. We’re not devoid of strong female role models. Often, what’s lacking is access to their true stories and the obstacles they faced along the way. Growing up in Nigeria, I’ve witnessed the incredible potential within our communities and the importance of sharing our journeys openly. By breaking down barriers and sharing my own experiences, I aim to show them that, despite the challenges, success is attainable. Through mentorship and support, I want to demonstrate that, with determination, hard work, and access to resources, they too can thrive in the field of science. I hope that my journey will encourage them to dream big, believe in themselves, and pursue their passions in science with confidence.

As a female entrepreneur, I encountered the funding gap, a common challenge for women-led businesses due to perceptions of lower risk-taking. To overcome this, I focused on refining my pitch, exploring alternative funding sources, and seeking mentorship from successful female entrepreneurs. By turning this challenge into an opportunity to showcase the strength of women-led ventures, I transformed obstacles into stepping stones on my path to success.

My vision for the future is to continue expanding Pharmarun’s impact and reach across Africa. I plan to further develop our platform, leveraging technology to improve medication access and healthcare delivery for communities in need. Additionally, I aim to foster more collaborations with pharmacies and healthcare providers to enhance our services and ensure universal health coverage. Ultimately, I am committed to driving positive change in the healthcare sector and empowering individuals to lead healthier lives.

I want to share a message of encouragement and empowerment with aspiring female scientists around the world. To all the young women and girls who dream of pursuing careers in science: believe in yourself, your abilities, and your potential to make a difference. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back from following your passion and achieving your goals. The world needs your creativity, intellect, and unique perspective now more than ever. Embrace your curiosity, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and never stop pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Together, we can create a future where women and girls are equally represented and celebrated in the field of science. So go ahead, dream big, aim high, and know that you have the power to change the world through science.

Platforms like the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award play a crucial role in changing the narrative for women in science. For Pharmarun, winning this award has been an amazing opportunity to showcase the incredible work we’re doing, particularly as a business co-founded by two women. The decision to ensure both male and female winners not only promotes gender equality but also validates the significant contributions of women-led businesses like ours. Winning first prize further reinforces the message that women are driving innovation and making a positive impact in the healthcare sector. This recognition inspires us to continue our mission of improving healthcare access and amplifying the voices of women in science and innovation.