Reshaping future of Africa’s health care
For Sangu Delle, serial investor and founder of CarePoint, the future of health care in Africa is all about technology.
“We are revolutionising health care in Africa by using technology where I am paid to prevent you from getting sick, rather than getting paid for managing your sickness,” said Delle.
Considering the present state of Africa’s health sector, Delle’s quest looks like an overly ambitious one. Africa’s health sector has been a sore developmental point for decades, hampered by high poverty and disease rates.
Only five countries on the continent allocate up to 15 per cent of their annual budgets to health care, seriously impacting the health of millions of people. According to McKinsey, the availability of skilled health workers falls 60 per cent below the UN’s recommended minimum threshold, while sub-Saharan Africa has only one to five per cent of ICU beds per capita, compared to Europe and East Asia.
However, increased urbanisation across Africa, and the associated rise of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension, are encouraging an increase of private sector investments in health care delivery. A thriving tech ecosystem is also raising an army of innovators who are increasingly building products focused on solving health sector problems.
Disruptive technology may be the answer
Delle is no stranger to radical ideas, which has served him well in a career as a successful venture capitalist.
While running Golden Palm Investments, Delle built an enviable practice by investing in several successful tech startups – Flutterwave and mPharma being just two examples. Having shifted his focus to health care, Delle is optimistic that applying disruptive technology to Africa’s health care system will lead to a better future.
“Africa has about 15 per cent of the world’s population, but we represent 25 per cent of the global disease burden, while our share of global health resources is less than one per cent, and we only have three per cent of global healthcare workers.
“For us to have any meaningful socio-economic transformation, we have to solve health care challenges.
“This naturally presented me with my next task – using tech to reimagine health care practices while urgently bridging the gap in health care. All of Africa’s myriad of issues pale into comparison. It starts and ends with health,” he said.
With operations in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, CarePoint, which has a workforce of 50 per cent women, prioritises innovative and dynamic management of health care brands providing patient-centred services.
“Tech offers hope where you are faced with limited resources, and this therefore forms an integral operational process in all the clinics run by CarePoint.
“We are currently building the first green hospital in sub-Saharan Africa in Ughelli, Nigeria. This facility will be powered by solar, thus negating the need for generators,” he said.
A partnership between CarePoint and Microsoft has resulted in the deployment of AI to help manage chronic cases of diabetes. Robust telemedicine infrastructure enables CarePoint to provide care without patients having to make trips to care centres for non-emergency consultations.
Delle stated that “We are also using tech as a tool to fight climate change”.
“The healthcare industry is a big polluter of the environment with the sector contributing almost five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“If we continue business as usual, the sector is estimated to triple emissions by 2050. It is a no brainer, therefore, that health care must be designed for a future where its contributions to climate change is reduced.
This is a core philosophy for our work at CarePoint. The power of tech is limitless, and we are constantly finding and developing ways to harness this power to deliver better health care in the continent.”
Power of education and sustainability
Delle’s hugely ambitious plans for Africa’s health care is fuelled by an impressive profile and an invaluable community backing him.
A graduate of African studies and economics from Harvard University, he went on to secure a Doctor of Law from Harvard Law School, a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School, a master’s in international human rights law from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in African studies and anthropology from the University of Birmingham.
In 2007, he co-founded Cleanacwa, a nonprofit which provided water, sanitation services and basic human rights to 160 underdeveloped communities in his native Ghana. In 2022, he launched the Sangu Delle Foundation, a grant-making nonprofit focused on education, mental health and job creation.
“Aid should be sustainable, and education is a vital tool that enables people to break free from poverty. I once had an organisation offering to donate shoes to me to share among people from underdeveloped communities that they saw walking barefoot.
“I declined the offer. The person that has walked barefoot from birth has gotten used to it, so when you give him a shoe and he adapts to this more comfortable option, will you sustain this when the first pairs eventually get worn out? How does he readjust to walking barefoot when the shoes stop coming? A more sustainable approach for me is to educate this person, find jobs for him, and allow him to lift himself out of poverty so as to be able to afford shoes.”
Delle’s accomplishments and networks have no doubt contributed to shaping his progressive views. A member of several global leadership organisations, he identifies Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) as key to providing not just beneficial networking but also a community to lean on.
“People think of networks and tend to see if from a robotic way, but what made YPO stand out for me and encouraged me to join is the wholesome community that it creates. All other such global organisations give you networking, prestige, etc, but YPO gives all this and more by creating a safe space where leaders prioritise empathy, assistance and knowledge-sharing.”
YPO, a global leadership community of chief executives provides young business leaders a community where they can foster strong relationships with chief executives, grow as leaders, gain resources to build their businesses, and make a difference in their lives and their communities. From events to various knowledge-sharing initiatives, YPO has equipped young leaders with the tools to make smarter business decisions and elevate their brands.
“It can be lonely at the top, because as a leader, you are expected to solve problems and there are few places you can go to cry about your own problems,” said Delle. “To me, the greatest power of YPO is the authentic community it has, which in turn creates a safe space for leaders to go to with their problems. The quality and quantity of leaders within YPO means a meeting over drinks leads to knowledge-sharing that empowers you to innovate and solve problems.”
No surprise that Delle points young leaders to the community. “I am constantly encouraging leaders across the continent to join YPO to harness its powers as a community as we all strive to build better systems.”