Maker Stories from MENA: The Healthy Status of the Region’s Healthcare Startups
Healthcare providers in the Middle East and North Africa will spend $2.86 billion on IT this year, according to IT consultancy Gartner. Of this total, nearly half will go to telecommunication services, while another $410 million will be spent on software.
The region’s dynamic healthcare tech startups are looking to claim a piece of that pie by offering a range of innovative products and services, from wearable 24/7 heart monitors to cloud-based, big-data analysis for the healthcare and diagnostics sector.
The opportunities are particularly exciting in this region, which is witnessing tremendous growth in healthcare infrastructure spending that is designed to address growing populations, rising incidence of disease, and a commitment to improving the quality of healthcare. Spending in 2016 alone across MENA could reach $150 billion.
While it’s clear that infrastructure is important, the regional entrepreneurial community recognizes that smaller-scale digital and technology-focused health solutions might also have an important role to play in improving the health of MENA citizens.
As Brian de Francesca, founder and CEO of Dubai-based Ver2 Digital Medicine, said at a recent healthcare technology forum: “Digitization is far more important than building massive hospitals. Imagine if every one of us had an intelligent automated weighing scale at home that would monitor our BMI and blood pressure and make suggestions for potential interventions very early on, much before someone becomes obese, and develops a roster of chronic complicated ailments.”
The global attention being paid to the technology innovation taking place in the region only reinforces this point. For example, Ziad Sankari, founder of Lebanon-based startup CardioDiagnostics, was invited this spring to speak at an event in Washington, D.C. that was organized by U.S. President Barak Obama. His company leverages wearables and cloud computing to help monitor heart conditions.
Another cutting-edge startup, EG-Bioinformatics, was created to provide big-data, bio-analysis services to regional medical professionals, and to researchers, such as biologists looking to find plants that could be more resistant to droughts. Their nimble response to a regional genome sequencing market that is moving slower than they’d anticipated shows just how creative the MENA region’s technology entrepreneurs are.
This sector has even grown large enough to spark its own conference in Dubai. The sophistication of its players was on show, as conference panelist Aschkan Abdul-Malek, founder and CEO, AlemHealth, said that entrepreneurs too often focus on just one actor within the healthcare industry, even though this complex sector has many influential players, all of whom need to be addressed by the new product or service.
Through a range of programs and projects across the region, GE is working to support small and medium enterprises, entrepreneurs, and startups operating in key industrial spaces such as oil & gas, power generation and healthcare. More generally, GE works to address the region’s and its partners’ toughest challenges in aviation, healthcare, oil and gas, power and water, and rail transportation across the Middle East and North Africa.