It’s not news that providing healthcare in Africa is problematic. Even though standards vary from country to country, African healthcare often faces similar issues: not enough funding, too few doctors and low accessibility to health services.

However, the fight against poor healthcare in Africa is not so simple. Despite widespread poverty in Africa, 50 per cent of the continent’s healthcare expenses are paid out of pocket by individuals. Nigeria is no exception, as around 72 per cent of healthcare expenses come from people’s pockets.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s reliance on its diaspora community is growing. Remittances from this demographic have helped pad up the country’s dwindling foreign reserves in the last eight years. But not enough of these remittances go to healthcare. A 2018 study showed that only 13 per cent of remittances were spent on health-related expenses. So it’s about time someone leveraged this community to improve local access to quality healthcare.

These facts explain why WellaHealth, one of Nigeria’s leading health-tech startups, is starting the Healthsend Africa brand, a business within Wellahealth to help Nigerians in the diaspora #SendGoodHealthHome – a hashtag campaign to introduce the product to the world while selling the core idea of the product. By leveraging the financial resources and goodwill of the diaspora community, WellaHealth seeks to bridge the gap between Nigerians living abroad and healthcare services in their home country. Its plan is simple: help Nigerians in the diaspora pay for healthcare for their loved ones back home.

“The key challenge is access to quality healthcare for loved ones back home in Nigeria,” Joseph Okoroafor, Marketing & Communications Lead for Wellahealth, said. “Most Nigerians in the diaspora do not trust the health service providers in the country, but would pitch their tents with a provider if they believe that their loved ones will get the best care.”

The trust depletion here exists because of Nigeria’s largely inefficient healthcare system. In 2019, Mr Abdullahi Mashi, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, said that the country’s health sector had an annual deficit of $ 10 billion. Since then, not much has changed. So when people in the diaspora send money home for healthcare, they are still uncertain that their loved ones will get adequate treatment.

Now, WellHealth wants to take that worry off their table and help them send good healthcare home instead. “This product solves the problem of transparency for Nigerians in the diaspora who are blindsided by the actual cost of care their loved ones receive whenever they send money,” Joseph Okoroafor said. “This way, we’ll also have fewer people feeling guilty for leaving their loved ones back home among the diasporan thus bringing them peace of mind.”

Nigerians in the diaspora access this service by setting up and topping their wallets via their website, which they can use to access WellaHealth’s various healthcare services. It’s pretty much like buying a gift card and sending it to someone back home. Only this time, the gift is healthcare. So customers can top up their wallets which can then be used by their loved ones in Nigeria to purchase genuine medicine, get health insurance, request laboratory tests or even schedule a regular visit to check on their elderly or sick loved ones. “Among several benefits, we’re offering them peace of mind. Nigerians in the diaspora can rest easy knowing that their loved ones are well catered for,” Dr. Ikpeme Neto, Wellahealth’s CEO, said. “This way, they also get fund transparency, as they will know exactly how much gets spent on their loved ones.”

WellaHealth’s disruptive approach to healthcare reflects the growth of telemedicine and health-tech startups in Nigeria. According to a report by Salient Advisory, telemedicine, combined with direct-to-consumer distribution, is the most common type of service offered by health innovators founded in the last few years. These companies, through tech-enabled solutions, are changing the distribution model for health products. “Wellahealth believes that telemedicine will continue to grow,” Joseph Okoroafor added. “For this product, we have invested in bot technology to support the efforts of doctors, especially when it comes to chat conversations for requests. This technology helps provide context before being pushed to our doctors, who are on standby 24/7.”

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