Egypt’s quickly-growing healthcare sector offers ‘immense’ opportunities for local entrepreneurs in fields like wearables, genome sequencing and data collection, said Walid Bakr, managing director of the Abraaj Group, a private equity investing firm, during a panel spotlighting the industry on Saturday at the RiseUp summit.
“We’re seeing opportunities for completely disrupting the healthcare space,” Bakr said during the panel titled Disrupting Healthcare as Demand Grows, which discussed the biggest challenges and opportunities in Egyptian healthcare.
The healthcare sector in Egypt is valued at some $14 billion, and is growing quickly because of population growth and increased health awareness, Bakr said. Since the government does not have the funds to catch up with that demand, the only solution is to focus on prevention to reduce that demand, he added.
“Focusing on the delivery of health care is missing the bigger picture,” Bakr noted. “Healthcare is much more beyond the treatment and prevention of injury. We can look at opportunities from an entrepreneurial perspective on how we can transform the process of healthcare from prevention (nutrition, lifestyle,) to assessment like tele-medicine, and the relationships between providers and insurance companies.”
Technologies like wearables are transforming the whole healthcare space with devices like a portable ultrasound that connects to your smartphone or insulin implants that control the blood glucose level in diabetes patients without injections, he added. Genome sequencing is today done for dramatically lower costs compared to a decade ago and allows doctors to tell what diseases a newborn will be susceptible to in order to focus on prevention. Big data and analytics also offer an immense opportunity for entrepreneurs, as do fields like post-care and monitoring that are “completely untapped” in Egypt.
Egypt’s biggest problem is access, however, with not enough beds and hospitals to meet patient demands, said Karim Hussein, of DKimia. Tele-medicine offers a solution to this, especially in rural areas, however, by giving more access to a broader range of people. The technology also has the ability to provide the mediocre physician with the tools and knowledge at their fingertips that match the best physicians, he said.
As the need for better quality healthcare services increases, it is the patient who often pushes healthcare providers to improve their technology and quality of service, said Amir Barsoum, or DrBridge, a regional leader in Healthcare IT Platforms. Patients demanded shorter wait times, for example, which pushed doctors to digitize their medical records to save time.
“That is why we are sitting on a ticking bomb, if this part of the economy disappears then the economy will fall”- Kamran Elahian, chairman and co-founder of Global Catalyst Partners.
“I think that entrepreneurs should focus on their own experiences, and go after finding unique ways to tackle those challenges”, Marlon is the General partner at Cross Culture Ventures.
“In Egypt many think that they must go to the gulf even though we have a bigger market because of our big population and therefore, we can operate with less cost than regional players”, Ameer Sherif is the CEO and Co-founder of WUZZUF.
“The quantity and quality I have seen across the region are a lot better. There is confidence and courage across the region that is very powerful”, Chris Schroeder.
“How to Quantum Leap MENA’s entrepreneurship & startup ecosystem” Rami El Karmi, Mentor at 500 Startups: “Silicon Valley is not a place, it’s a state of mind.”
“Uber: Global Product, Local Thinking” Jambu Palaniappan, Regional General Manager at Uber: “as we’ve started to expand to Europe and Asia, and more recently to the Middle East, we’ve started to realise that the demand for expansion is insatiable. …Cairo is the fastest growing city for us in both MENA and Europe”