The pivotal role of women in advancing inclusivity and innovation in digital healthcare across Africa

I recently had the privilege of attending the Africa Health Tech Summit of 2023 in the vibrant city of Kigali this October. The experience was truly transformative, providing a glimpse into the promising future of healthcare technology in Africa. The dedication of the panel speakers, all united by a shared mission to leverage technology for improving healthcare accessibility, stood out to me. They drew from their experiences and openly discussed the challenges they encountered on their journey to address pressing health issues in African communities through innovative technology solutions. This was truly inspiring and served as a powerful reminder that meaningful change begins with individuals who are willing to roll up their sleeves and make a difference.

I particularly enjoyed the focused African Women in Digital Health (AWiDH) panel discussion on “Breaking Barriers: Women Shaping the Future of Digital Health in Africa” which emphasized the use of technology to enhance healthcare accessibility and quality across the continent. The issue of limited access to digital devices, particularly among women in rural areas and older women, resonated deeply with me because it’s a reality I frequently witness in my community. It’s not an abstract concept; it’s a reality we see all around us. The digital divide is a significant barrier to progress, and addressing it is crucial to ensure that the benefits of healthcare technology reach everyone, regardless of their location or circumstances.

The panels also highlighted the tremendous potential of digital solutions to revolutionize healthcare delivery in Africa, including discussions on early disease detection, remote patient monitoring, and improving healthcare infrastructure. It was a glimpse of the endless possibilities that lie in a future where technology plays a pivotal role in ensuring the well-being of individuals and communities alike.

In retrospect, I couldn’t help but hope for more fireside chats and small group discussions. Just imagine the wealth of knowledge and experience that could have been shared! The participants, each with their unique journeys in the realm of digital health inclusivity, would undoubtedly have added valuable insights. These conversations would have further strengthened our sense of community and deepened our understanding of the challenges and successes experienced by those dedicated to promoting inclusivity in healthcare technology.

Between panel discussions, I had the opportunity to connect with fellow attendees, all sharing a passion for healthcare technology from diverse backgrounds. The Founder and Executive Director of Speak Up Africa, Mrs. Yacine Djibo, showcased exceptional networking skills, introducing us to influential figures in the digital health sector. We had the privilege of learning from dignitaries like Mr. Jean-Philbert from Africa CDC, gaining invaluable insights from their wealth of experience. Additionally, I had the honor of engaging with Mrs. Marie Chantal, Founder of Umubyeyi, who is part of the Women Innovators Incubator. Her journey, from having just an idea to fully implementing it in her community in Rwanda, served as a great source of inspiration. These networking opportunities solidified my belief in the collective power of collaboration. It became evident that progress in healthcare technology is a team effort, and the potential for groundbreaking partnerships was limitless.

The Africa Health Tech Summit underscored the pivotal role of women in advancing inclusivity and innovation in digital healthcare across Africa—let’s champion this vision together!

Written by Sheeba Niwensiima, Co-Founder of Photo- Kabada and First Prize winner of the Second Edition of the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award