$20-Million Women's Health Initiative Kicks Off with Training in Nairobi

Image Credit: HavenAfrica

Image Credit: HavenAfrica

Originally published on HavenAfrica Sept. 9, 2016

By the end of 2015, roughly 99% of the world’s maternal deaths had occurred in developing regions with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for two-thirds of that number. Added to this alarming statistic is the fact that the risk of a child dying before reaching five years of age is seven times higher in Africa than in Europe, according to the World Health Organisation.

The need to improve the quality, access and affordability of healthcare around the world presents a challenge that GE sees as an opportunity to make lasting changes with initiatives such as the Healthymagination Mother and Child Programme. This initiative was launched by GE and Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship in March to accelerate much-needed medical innovations in nine African countries. The primary objective of the $20-million joint venture is to address maternal and child mortality by supporting social entrepreneurs operating in the health sector across Sub-Sahara Africa.

After a rigorous evaluation process, 17 social entrepreneurs from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia, and Uganda were selected to participate in the programme’s first cohort. The candidates attended a three-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, where senior Miller Center mentors and GE business leaders trained them on business fundamentals to improve their strategic thought processes, and to develop business plans that demonstrate growth as well as long-term financial sustainability.

Organisations, which were considered for the programme, met the following criteria:

  • had been in operation in Sub-Saharan Africa for a minimum of three years,
  • were involved in delivering health care services to mothers and children,
  • had experience in distribution, training, use and maintenance of medical equipment for pregnant women or children,
  • developed products or technologies that improved knowledge and/or access to care, such as telemedicine, mobile technologies, data analysis or image interpretation,
  • provided infrastructure services or facilities associated with needs arising from pregnancy to paediatric care, and
  • were for-profit, non-profit, or hybrid enterprises.

This training and mentoring program combine Silicon Valley entrepreneurial principles with the Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) methodology, which has been refined through 12 years of working with more than 570 social enterprises worldwide.

The overall goal of the programme is to ensure that women have access to high-quality health services during pregnancy and childbirth by addressing problems such as the availability of screening tools as well as potentially fatal conditions such as pregnancy-induced hypertension.

“Social innovations and entrepreneurs in the health sector have in recent years yielded sustainable solutions to some of the world’s biggest health challenges,” said Jay Ireland, GE Africa president and CEO.

“It is for this reason that the healthymagination Mother and Child Programme is focusing on training and mentoring social entrepreneurs working on increasing the quality, access and affordability of maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby enabling more women and children to experience better health,” said Ireland.

A six-month online accelerator programme follows the initial workshop where Silicon Valley-based executives — who have also completed rigorous mentorship training with Miller Center — coach the entrepreneurs on developing an action plan, operational and social impact metrics, a presentation deck for investors, and an investment summary document. The programme will culminate in February 2017 with a premier pitch event in Africa where the 17 participants will present their respective enterprises to an audience of potential investors.