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[NAIROBI] Scaling up low-cost technological innovations and incorporating business model into healthcare could help cut maternal and child deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa, experts say.
According to World Health Organisation, Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for 66 per cent of global maternal deaths in 2015.
At a meeting of the General Electric (GE) healthymagination Mother and Child Program meeting held in Kenya last month (23 February), experts called for a paradigm shift to address the program.

“Technological innovation alone is insufficient. We also need business model to get technology to the people.”

Thane Kreiner, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship


The GE healthymagination program graduated 14 social entrepreneurs who completed training and mentorship aimed at improving and accelerating maternal and child health outcomes in Africa. The 14 entrepreneurs have innovations in countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda.
Robert Wells, executive director for strategy, healthymagination, says that although the health sector is in poor conditions, there are affordable, accessible and quality healthcare interventions for all.
He notes that the graduates completed a three-day, in-person workshop followed by a six-month online accelerator programme that included weekly, in-depth mentoring from Silicon Valley-based executives in the United States and local GE business leaders.
Wells explains that healthymagination Mother and Child program is designed to help social entrepreneurs acquire business fundamentals, improve their strategic thought processes and articulate a business plan that demonstrates impact, growth and long-term financial sustainability.
Thane Kreiner, executive director of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University in the United States, tells SciDev.Net that too many mothers and children are dying especially in rural communities and urban slums from preventable diseases.
“Technological innovation alone is insufficient,” says Kreiner. “We also need business model to get technology to the people.”
He adds that creating innovative business model to train local people as community health workers could boost job creation and provide livelihood for the people. According to Kreiner, having more community health workers, especially in rural communities where physicians are not available, could help prevent maternal and child deaths. Segun Ebitanmi, one of the social entrepreneurs and chief operating officer at Outreach Medical Services in Nigeria, challenges African governments to invest more in healthcare not by building hospitals alone.
However, he suggests that although health insurance could help poor people access good health facilities, African governments should also provide a conducive environment through infrastructure such as electricity and water.
Ebitanmi urges the implementation of quality standards that will regulate, monitor, evaluate and audit the health sector in Africa for sustainability.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.