Exporting the model
Riding on the coattails of South Africa’s success with MomConnect, replica programs are already underway using different brand names and localized content in Nigeria and Uganda. Each one, though, has its own peculiar problems such as choosing the right local partner, data hosting, content localization, understanding the best approach to reach pregnant women and dealing with political issues.
Branded as HelloMama in Nigeria, the product has only registered about 25,000 users in two Nigerian districts even as plans are underway to add two additional districts.
“We are yet to have direct relationship with the current Nigerian government and we discovered that due to the literacy level of many of the users, the voice-based service could be our major approach in this country,” Bekker says.
As African maternal and child health innovators develop their solutions and set out their rollout plans, they are coming to terms with the fact that they need to obtain the support and assistance of government.
What needs to happen next is for digital health developers to not just focus on the central federal government, but also approach states, local governments and district leaders that often have independent healthcare systems to integrate innovative solutions into their maternal care processes.
Since most causes of maternal and child deaths are preventable, lowering the mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa is strongly dependent on how pregnant women and mothers can be informed and empowered on prevention measures and connecting them to emergency care. With digital health tech quickly filling this gap, there is a real sense across the continent that things will improve if the government and the private sector can find more ways to work together and create lasting change.