Africa Healthcare: Ask Kangpe about your symptoms
Healthcare in Africa might conjure up an image of some physician working in a remote village via Doctors without Borders but mobile technology is rapidly changing the entire continent and Y Combinator startup Kangpe Health aims to cash in by providing Africans with a platform to contact doctors remotely through their mobile devices.
People access Kangpe’s platform by firing up the mobile app on either a simple or smartphone and typing in medical questions. Medical staff will then answer those questions for a small fee in what should be 10 minutes or less or refer the customer to a doctor who can help them further.
Friends Femi Kuti, Ope Olumeken and Matthew Mayaki launched Kangpe in Nigeria last year but Kuti came up with the idea originally while working as a doctor in the country. As he tells it, friends and patients would constantly hit him up over text about their symptoms and he thought it would be a good idea to turn the advice he was giving out for free into a start-up.
Whats is Kangpe
Kangpe is a mobile health startup that allows people to receive answers to their health questions 24 hours a day from verified doctors via SMS, mobile app and web. With an average of 2 doctors to every 10,000 people, Africa has the lowest Doctor to Patient ratio in the world.
With an average of 2 doctors to every 10,000 people, Africa has the lowest Doctor to Patient ratio in the world. Further compounding this is the fact that large numbers of African doctors emigrate abroad for better opportunities, creating a talented but inaccessible pool of doctors of African origin. Thus many Africans do not have the means to regularly access a doctor and those with the means endure inefficient hospital systems.
This creates a climate that makes it difficult for Africans to get the right information to live healthier lives and allows the widespread propagation of misleading information, worsening an already dire health situation as people do not have the right information to take the right action.
Kangpe now operates in Ghana and Kenya as well, potentially serving a combined population of roughly 245 million people at the moment. According to Kuti, the startup has so far on-boarded 60,000 users.
Of course, it’s not the first to come up with the idea. Those in the U.S. can access similar remote physician platforms like Doctor on Demand or the text-based First Opinion for a medical question. There’s also MedAfrica in Kenya, Matibabu in Uganda and Hello Doctor, which currently operates in about 10 African countries.
However, with the fast-paced adoption of new technology and growth trajectory of several African nations, the field is still pretty wide for pulling in potential customers.
Kuti also points out the platforms working in the U.S. don’t exactly translate to care in Africa. “Google doesn’t know about African disease,” he says.
Kangpe has already sparked some social interest and has forged a partnership with Facebook as the top service on Facebook’s Free Basics program for Nigeria. You can see the promotional video Facebook put together to help promote Kangpe on Free Basics below.
But in the future, the founder says he’d really like Kangpe to become the “Oscar Health to Africa” by connecting people to initial consultations, health insurance or further medical care through the platform.
“We’re really trying to give African people access to healthcare at a price point that makes sense to them,” Kuti said.