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Kenya hosts first Pan-African Conference to accelerate growth of medical technology development

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Kenya is the fourth largest medical technology devices exporter in Africa at 3.1 pc of exports from Africa to the rest of the world ahead of Tunisia and Mauritius according to a keynote speech at the just concluded inaugural Transforming African Medtech Conference. 

The presentation puts South Africa, Egypt and Morocco ahead of Kenya at 21.1 percent, 6.8 percent and 3.5 percent respectively.

According to the data provided by Dr Victor Konde of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Africa exports medical devices worth $600 million every year representing 0.3 percent of global import. The sector has grown by $189 million over the last five years.

“Despite the growth, the continent is importing about 90 percent of medical devices.”

“Africa imports about $4 billion worth of medical devices, a growth of $1 billion in the last five years, representing about 1.9 percent of global imports, with South Africa (18%), Egypt (12%), Morocco (8%), Kenya (2.5%) importing the highest devices in Africa,” said  Dr. Victor Konde, from the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

According to the report, the global medical devices market hit $595.4 billion in 2022 and is expected to rise to $844.7 billion by 2028. Telemedicine and e-health was worth  $87.8 billion as of 2022 and is projected to reach $285.7 billion in 2027. Wearable health devices were at $116 billion in 2022 and will rise to $265.4 billion in 2027.

Artificial intelligence was worth $14.6 billion as of 2022 and is projected to reach $102 billion by 2028. 3D printing in health was worth $17.4 billion in 2022 and is expected to rise to $34.5 billion by 2028. Nanodevices and machines were at $1.3 billion in 2022 and may reach $2.7 billion by 2028.

The two-day  conference, convened by Villgro Africa and Jaza Rift Ventures in collaboration with Rice360 Institute of Global Health Technologies, Ifakara Innovation Hub, PDP Consortium and Kenyatta University is aimed at accelerating the growth of local solutions to address the challenges faced in the development and manufacturing of medical devices.

“Africa should not miss such lucrative markets with high potential to improve healthcare services for millions of its people. Collaborations amongst various stakeholders, including governments, regulators, academia and industry, have the potential to develop solutions to address the diverse healthcare challenges faced on the African continent, including the development and  manufacture of medical devices,” said Wambui Gachiengo, Chief Technology Officer, Villgro Africa.

According to Jaza Rift Ventures General Partner,  Sewu-Steve Tawia, investment in the medical devices segment of Africa’s startup space has the potential to hit $259 billion by 2030. Currently, the sector has attracted $500 million in investments.

“The future of the medical devices sector startup space is artificial intelligence (AI). AI in healthcare could include tasks that range from simple to complex—everything from answering the phone to medical record review, population health trending and analytics, therapeutic drug and device design, reading radiology images, making clinical diagnoses and treatment plans, and even talking with patients,” Tawia explained.

On his part, Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Paul Wainaina called on the government to increase its commitment in the medical devices sector through allocating more budget to research and development of the sector.

“We believe that by applying the best that technology has to offer to the manufacturing sector, including AI and robotics, we can develop much-needed medical devices that can be distributed across Africa at scale and at an affordable cost. The conference has served as a catalyst for capturing these ideas and inspiring action that will now make them a reality,” Wainaina noted.

Other issues affecting the growth of the sector include skills development for technical professionals.

“We need to increase skills development in our institutions. Our engineering students are more theoretical than practical; we need to equip our students with the skills needed to increase investments and uptake of medical devices in the African continent. We need more biomedical engineers, data scientists and Al experts,” added Khatuchi Kasandi, Director Invention Education Partnerships at Rice360 Institute of Global Health Technologies.

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