Multinational consumer goods company, Reckitt, has announced the public launch of its purely non-profit WiNFUND NFT Africa collection, a group of unique digital artworks that will create a community of innovators, investors and supporters to champion the next generation of African women tackling some of the continent’s biggest health challenges.
Behind the mint is the new Women in Innovation Fund (WiNFUND), which has been co-founded by consumer goods company Reckitt and the Health Innovation and Investment Exchange (HIEx), in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Eco Bank Foundation. The fund aims to address two significant areas of inequality – 1 in 2 people, or half the world, lack access to essential healthcare, and less than 2% of venture capital funding globally goes to women despite evidence their ventures generate stronger returns. WiNFUND will unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs to address both of those gaps.
WiNFUND will invest directly in women entrepreneurs who are already implementing home-grown solutions to some of the continent’s most urgent health challenges.
WiNFUND will be partly financed through the sale of WiNFUND NFTs, unique works of digital art designed by Rwandan artist Christella Bijou. The collection has been supported and made available in close collaboration with technology partner, Tokenproof. Additional funding will come from mission-aligned donors, partner organisations, and high net worth individuals, who together with WiNFUND NFT holders will create a global community of mentors and supporters committed to improving access to healthcare and women’s entrepreneurship.
WiNFUND NFT holders will gain access to invite-only events on Sustainable Development Goals and will be invited to join a mentorship scheme to directly support the successful women entrepreneurs. Since applications opened in September, WiNFUND has received more than 300 applications from women entrepreneurs in seven African countries – Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda. A shortlist of applicants will be announced on International Women’s Day on 8 March. All shortlisted applicants will receive business support to help them scale, while the top few selected will receive direct funding from WiNFUND.
The shortlisted companies include the Nigerian e-health business, Famasi Africa, which was co-founded by Adeola Ayoola. The digital health platform enables users to get free follow-up visits, automate monthly refills, access their meds, get doorstep delivery, and communicate with medical professionals.
Another shortlisted Nigerian, Dorothy Jeff Nnamani, the founder of Novo Health Africa and a healthcare entrepreneur, is also one of the top contenders. Novo Health Africa is a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) emphasising sustainable healthcare services such as health insurance, healthcare financing, health management systems, and community health project delivery.
Applicants also include Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa from Uganda, who launched Community Healthcare Innovation Lab (CHIL) to screen women in remote locations for cervical and breast cancer using artificial intelligence (Al), after being treated for breast cancer herself.
Also in Uganda, Dr Mercy Ashaba, is helping people manage the cost of healthcare through the fintech company she co-founded, Peleyta Health. Its micro savings and lending platform helps Ugandans on low incomes afford quality healthcare.
And in Kenya, Umra Omar, founder and director of Safari Doctors, is leading her team of medics delivering primary healthcare to some of the country’s most remote regions.
By investing in companies like these, WiNFUND will directly support women entrepreneurs to scale their enterprises, extending their reach and helping more people than ever access high-quality healthcare. WiNFUND’s ambition is to replicate this model on other continents in the future.
WiNFUND builds on Reckitt’s Fight for Access (FFA) Accelerator, a programme to support and scale early-stage social enterprises across the world, which has improved access to healthcare for 1.5 million people in its first year alone.
Patricia O’Hayer, Global Head of External Affairs for Reckitt and co-founder of WiNFUND said: “Women led companies are already achieving amazing things: improving access to healthcare and saving lives. WiNFUND is an innovative model that will help entrepreneurs grow by building an engaged, global community that will provide business support and financing through the sale of unique NFTs. These entrepreneurs are addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges, and through them, we believe WiNFUND can transform access to healthcare for the people who need it most.”
Pradeep Kakkattil, Founder and CEO of Health Innovation and Investment Exchange and co-founder of WiNFUND, said: “Three out of four healthcare workers globally are women. Women on the frontlines of healthcare are innovating and finding solutions to challenges that plague the health system. WiNFUND is about enabling equitable access to investments and accelerating women-led health enterprises – it can be transformative. It is a win-win as it impacts healthcare access and builds economic resilience.”