Engineers might disagree. However, not all bridges are built with steel, concrete and asphalt. Some are made entirely of cooperation and coordination. It is the type of bridge that connects Europe’s closest neighbor, the African continent.
Covering everything from smart health and fintech services to food tech, education tech and sustainable energy, European and African companies are bringing their smart solutions to be incubated, accelerated and scaled through partnerships across the Mediterranean Sea. Together they are tackling global health emergencies – such as the Covid-19 pandemic – and climate change, issues that hit Africa hardest, but transcend borders and countries.
Meet Hadiyyah Eleojoh Lawal. She is a disruptor dedicated to unlocking digital healthcare in Nigeria, which is now expanding into Europe. Appreciating the tremendous potential of digital technologies, she is helping African hospitals throw their paper records into the dustbin of history, and through smart solutions, connecting hospitals and patient data across the two continents.
Realize the dream
“It has always been a dream to make key information available to patients in my home country,” said Lawal, who studied information management systems at university.
As COO of Primed E-health, a leading African digital healthcare company based in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, Lawal realized her dream. Together with the company’s co-founder and CEO, Dr. Are Abdulhafiz, they developed a revolutionary electronic management system to unify hospital records and databases, which now number 44 hospitals in West Africa. , processing data from 1.5 million patients. With Primed E-health’s award-winning SmartClinic app, patients can use their smartphones to access their doctors for consultations, download health records, obtain prescriptions, book medical appointments and pay fees through the SmartWallet .
As one of the first companies in Africa to digitize hospitals, Primed E-health’s mobile and web-based medical application has gained incredible traction in the Covid-19 response. Its mobile web solution has been recognized by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as one of the best digital solutions in the country developed by startups.
Along with the NCC award, funds have been allocated to digitize many other hospitals in Nigeria and roll out the pilot SmartClinic product. The company now expands to 200 hospitals in Ghana, Uganda, Ivory Coast and Kenya. “And the next step will be to connect them to Europe,” Lawal said.
A chance to bridge businesses in Europe
“We have a vast knowledge of the startup space, which allows us to develop a model that we believe can be scaled up across Europe,” Lawal said. “We can now achieve this through the vast network of startups, especially in other African countries like Uganda and Kenya, expanding our reach as we develop programs around healthcare and technology. We are now able to hire local experts thanks to the collaborations we have already established in Europe.
Connection projects with Europe are underway. The company is one of 10 African innovators to be incubated under the “BEES” soft landing program launched in Paris by the Bond’innov French incubator – a key industry player in the innovation network ENRICH in Africa (EiA) mentoring of startups and SMEs in the intercontinental innovation system.
Lawal points to his experience as proof that such EU-Africa initiatives are key to attracting investors and future players when launching in Europe. “We have been able to build partnerships around online transactional services that we can integrate with our healthcare solutions and other mobile healthcare providers, like H24. These allow us to [even] integrate with other markets linked to Europe, such as Tunisia, Algeria and others,” she added.
Powered by the EiA program, the Bond’innov bootcamp helped Lawal and his company to “navigate the complex and important path of internationalization towards Europe”.
These European and African innovation links to address global challenges should be strengthened as EU and AU leaders recognized their joint innovation agenda for jobs and growth with a focus on youth at the AU-EU summit this week.
European companies are growing in Africa
EiA programs not only help African startups and SMEs to grow in Europe. They are also aimed at European innovators interested in scaling up across the Mediterranean and across Africa. These programs provide access to local markets and know-how and aim to stimulate investment in innovation, jobs and growth. They also target global challenges, as pandemics and the climate emergency do not respect borders between countries or continents.
European startups are already experiencing an acceleration in Africa. They can now join accelerators such as Chapter54, which – launched by global technology investment firm Partech – is the first dedicated accelerator for European scale-ups. The decision to expand into Africa is inspired by the continent’s fast-growing tech ecosystem, according to the company.
The timing is perfect. Africa’s ‘tech hub’ ecosystem is expanding to welcome a new generation of innovators who range from business incubators – where start-ups have access to mentorship and support to help them get established – and accelerators, providing growing businesses with access to mentorship, investors and additional support.
A platform for European companies looking to invest in Africa is the African European Digital Innovation Bridge Network (AEDIB|NET). Aiming to create a common digital innovation ecosystem, this initiative builds bridges between EU and African ecosystems. By connecting startups, SMEs, the diaspora and other actors of the African and European ecosystem in transcontinental partnerships, it facilitates intercontinental collaboration.
Its mission includes the creation of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) according to the EU DIH model and their adaptation to work on common challenges, such as climate, smart agriculture, smart cities and digital trade. The end goal is to provide support to SMEs and intermediaries as well as investor networks by harnessing expertise from Africa and Europe, together creating a powerful common innovation ecosystem.
Among the 13 main consortium partners in the project is Smart Africa, a pan-African institution. Its goal is ambitious: to transform Africa into a single digital market by 2030 (much like the EU) by building affordable digital infrastructure, promoting and facilitating investment in Africa and accelerating birth and development. of a digital society. Supported by all Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the Smart Africa Alliance today includes 32 African countries, which represent nearly 815 million inhabitants.
“Smart Africa is ensuring that the continent develops in harmony with Europe and the rest of the world through cooperative initiatives such as the EU-Africa Digital Economy Task Force, the AU-EU D4D Hub project , our partnership with European development partners such as Norway’s NORAD. and BMZ/GIZ in Germany,” said Rym Jarou, Project Manager for ICT Startups and Innovation Ecosystem Development at the Smart Africa Secretariat.
According to Jarou, the results of the project will be “very impactful” for the development of African and European digital innovation hubs.
“We need to ensure that as many clusters, startups and innovators as possible benefit from this knowledge and these connections and opportunities,” she concluded.
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The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally publishedin Skylinethe European magazine for research and innovation.