Cameroonian health startup Waspito has secured a $2.5 million seed extension from DP World through Newtown Partners, Saviu Ventures, AAIC Investment, Axian Ventures and CFAO’s Health54 to spur its growth in the Francophone region.
Waspito is a health-focused social network that allows users (patients) to access and consult with verified doctors over video calls. Additionally, it facilitates sample collection from homes and the delivery of medication.
The startup branched out into Ivory Coast at the start of the year, where it is also piloting a hybrid model, and has its eyes on Senegal and Gabon, backed by a new round after last year’s $2.7 million seed.
Jean Lobe Lobe founded Waspito at the start of 2020, just before the COVID pandemic became a global health emergency, a timely period for the health startup to kickstart its mission of making healthcare accessible to all.
However, Waspito sought to approach telemedicine differently. Instead of building a platform that would involve pre-registration and booking of consultation meetings, Lobe opted for one where users could instantly connect with doctors.
“Going online to book an appointment for later doesn’t really ring a bell when somebody is really seriously sick or someone that needs a doctor right away. This is why we do instant video consultations,” Lobe told TechCrunch.
When a user logs in to the site, which Lobe refers to as Facebook for healthcare, they are allowed to select a doctor from a list of those that are currently online. And, where a doctor recommends medical tests, a technician from one of its partner laboratories is sent for sample collection. Waspito has integrated with some local hospitals for support with patients requiring deeper reviews and/or admission.
“We have partnered with hospitals in a way that after consultation on Waspito, care continues in the nearest hospital without the need for additional consultation payments or registration. We have connected with all these stakeholders because, overall, we want to connect the healthcare ecosystem online and be a one-stop shop for all healthcare services,” said LobePatients make payments through various options, including insurance, before consultations, which Lobe says incentivizes doctors to remain online for the extra earnings. Users also get to anonymously join various disease support groups for tailored advice.
Lobe is convinced that constantly having doctors online is one of the ways of making them accessible to patients domiciled in target countries, where the latest data shows there are fewer than two doctors for every 10,000 people.
The startup, declared best health startup in Africa during this year’s VivaTech awards, claims to have so far reached 650,000 users in Cameroon and Ivory Coast, has on-boarded 950 doctors and facilitated 60,000 consultations.
Waspito anticipates that the number of consultations done via its platform will grow as it rolls out a hybrid model it is piloting in Ivory Coast — where it has set-up mini-clinics to reach offline patients. The startup is establishing these clinics within the branch network of La Poste Corporation, the national postal service in Ivory Coast, which has a wide coverage across the country. With the help of nurses manning these sites, patients will be able to connect with doctors virtually and access other healthcare services by its partners.
This is a necessary strategy for Waspito as a majority of users in Africa remain offline, due to the cost of internet and smartphones, even as Africa’s digital economy continues to expand. It is set to introduce the hybrid approach in Cameroon and Senegal at the end of the first quarter next year. Fundraising advisory firm Raisers was Waspito’s adviser during the round.
“Healthcare is actually for everybody and that means we have to reach out to everybody. These mini-clinics, we think, are the best way to connect with the underserved populations,” said Lobe.