Kenyan IT-students impress international health experts

The International German Forum showcases innovative IT solutions for global health

Kenyan teams and Deputy Director Baur, BMZ

Six young Kenyans presented their IT-based ideas for better healthcare in Kenya at the International German Forum. Hosting the Forum, Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that health is a key topic for Germany’s G20 presidency and thanked the Kenyan hackers for their commitment to improving global health.

The Kenyan students had taken part in a hackathon in Nairobi in November 2016 which aimed at generating IT solutions for child and adolescent health in Kenya. The three teams who had conceived the most promising pitches were then invited to participate in the International German Forum in Berlin on 21/22 February 2017.

In Berlin, the teams met with German IT innovators, with business leaders and civil society representatives, allowing them to present and further develop their ideas for e-health solutions that could make a difference to population health in Kenya.

And the winner is…

Two Kenyan winners

On the second day of the International German Forum, all three teams presented their proposals before 120 international health experts. A jury membered by the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), German Healthcare Partnership, Charité, ‘Capacity for Health Africa’ and ‘Health Enabled’ had been tasked to choose the overall winner amongst them. And their decision was unanimous:

Jackson Kiarie and Ethredah Chao won the first prize for their team’s project ‘Afya-Plan’, an app-based micro health insurance scheme for poor parents who want to provide for their children’s health care. ‘Nearly half of the Kenyan people still live under the poverty line’, said Ethredah. ‘If they get sick, they are not able to effort adequate health care. They need money for food, for the school of their kids. And as long as everyone is healthy, they simply forget to save money for healthcare.’ This is where Afya-Plan comes in: It builds on the Kenyan custom of villagers forming saving groups which allow them to save up for things they would not be able to afford on their own.

A digital micro health insurance platform will allow parents with low incomes to join a large group-saving scheme and to make their contributions to it via M-PESA, a mobile phone based money transfer service.

The BMZ’s Make-IT initiative which supports technology start-ups in developing countries will now provide the winning team with technical support and business connections to allow them to further develop their product so that it can eventually be implemented in Kenya and beyond.

The International German Forum - a milestone for the German G20-Presidency

Angela Merkel thanked the 120 participants at the International German Forum for their spirited contributions and lively exchange of views and experiences: ‘Germany wants to learn from you’, she said, and encouraged them to ‘keep networking’.

The Forum was just one of several events during the German G20 Presidency at which the topic of global health will be centre-stage. In May, for example, Germany will host the first ever meeting of G20 health ministers. The recent Ebola and Zika crises have shown that international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration is indispensable when it comes to preventing and to managing outbreaks of infectious diseases which can quickly spread across countries and continents.

Working for strong health systems worldwide

The idea presented by the winning team in Kenya could contribute to strengthening Kenya’s health system by ensuring that poor parents can afford the healthcare their children need. Not just in Kenya, but all over the world strong health systems are key for countries’ epidemic preparedness and for ensuring that all population groups have access to adequate health services.

This is why Germany together with the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the global initiative ‘Healthy Systems – Healthy Lives’ which brings together global health actors for a coordinated, effective and measurable effort to strengthen health systems around the world.
At the end of their visit to Berlin, the young Kenyans’ message to governments around the world is loud and clear: ‘Global health should be a priority for word leaders. Let us work towards affordable healthcare for everyone!’

February 2017

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