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Innovation Hub

Hot startup of the month: Kenya's TIBU Health

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For inclusive and sustainable growth, investment in Africa's healthcare systems is important. According to the World Bank Group, strong economic growth in recent years has helped reduce poverty to 43% of the African population.

As the continent's population expands, the region faces a critical challenge of creating the foundations for long-term inclusive growth.

According to a report on Africa's progress toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC), less than half of the continent's citizens have access to the healthcare they need.

The cost of healthcare can be very high in many African countries. To remedy the problems of access and high healthcare costs, many startups have come up with innovative solutions to help citizens in the countries where they operate.

TIBU Health provides access to primary outpatient care in Kenya both in-person and virtually via app or web browser.

"We adopt the latest, most advanced technologies in health and logistics to provide patients with a convenient and coordinated end-to-end healthcare experience that results in better health outcomes, healthier lives and with more time to spend on the things that matter to our patients," said TIBU Health CTO and Co-Founder Peter Gicharu in an interview with Connecting Africa.

TIBU Health provides easy access to primary outpatient care in Kenya.   (Source: TIBU Health)
TIBU Health provides easy access to primary outpatient care in Kenya.
(Source: TIBU Health)

"We use a hybrid model that combines tech-enabled services with a network of clinics. We serve individuals and families in peri-urban areas in Kenya who struggle with long travel distances, high healthcare costs and long wait times," Gicharu explained.

Established in 2018, the startup works by bringing medical services closer to patients.

"Imagine needing to see a doctor but instead of travelling far and waiting in long lines, you can visit a nearby medical clinic or even get a virtual consultation," he continued.

"People in Kenya can access our services through our online platforms, where they can book appointments, consult with doctors and even get their prescriptions delivered. It's all about convenience and accessibility," Gicharu said.

TIBU Health's inspiration and challenges

Gicharu added that witnessing firsthand the challenges people face in accessing quality healthcare was a great push to focus on the healthtech ecosystem in East Africa.

"The long distances to medical facilities, high costs and lengthy wait times prevent many from receiving timely care. We saw an opportunity to leverage technology to bridge these gaps and improve healthcare access," he commented.

"Our goal was to create a solution that could bring healthcare to people, no matter where they are, and ensure that everyone has the chance to receive the care they need."

He added that the company's approach to making the Kenyan healthcare system more accessible and personalized resonated with people who have long struggled with the traditional healthcare system.

"Patients appreciate the convenience, affordability and quality of care they receive through our services. Our personalized and tech-enabled approach has been a hit, and we've seen many people sign up and refer us to their friends and family."

Kenyans can access TIBU Health services through its online platforms, where they can book appointments, consult with doctors and even get their prescriptions delivered.   (Source: TIBU Health)
Kenyans can access TIBU Health services through its online platforms, where they can book appointments, consult with doctors and even get their prescriptions delivered.
(Source: TIBU Health)

Gicharu however, acknowledged that building trust within the communities the company served was challenging at first. He said that many people were skeptical about a new healthcare model that deviated from traditional practices.

"Another challenge was integrating our technology seamlessly with existing healthcare systems, which we addressed by working closely with local healthcare providers and continuously refining our platform."

Regulatory, competition, competitors and funding

Gicharu highlighted how the East African country's regulatory framework has posed some challenges as well as opportunities.

"On one hand, we've had to navigate complex healthcare regulations and ensure compliance with local laws, which can be time-consuming. On the other, the Kenyan government has been supportive of innovation in healthtech, providing a conducive environment for startups like ours to grow. We've worked closely with regulatory bodies to ensure our services meet all required standards."

Gicharu added that the startup's competitors include traditional healthcare facilities, other healthtech startups and telemedicine providers in the region.

"Each of these entities offers varying degrees of accessibility and affordability, but few combine the comprehensive approach that we do with on-the-ground services and tech-enabled convenience.

"Even with competitors, our competitive advantage lies in our innovative approach to healthcare delivery. By combining advanced technology with a decentralized network of clinics, we provide a seamless and convenient healthcare experience," he explained.

Gicharu also highlighted the company's membership model, which he believes further enhanced accessibility and affordability, setting TIBU Health apart from traditional providers.

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"We focus on meeting people where they are, which makes a significant difference in addressing the unique challenges faced by our target communities."

He said the startup is funded through a mix of private investors, grants and partnerships with healthcare organizations.

"Additionally, we generate revenue through partnerships with corporate organizations, local pharmacies and healthcare providers, ensuring that our model is both sustainable and scalable," he concluded.

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*Top image is of TIBU Health CTO and Co-Founder Peter Gicharu. (Source: TIBU Health)

Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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