“Entrepreneurship – the process of pioneering change including starting and growing businesses – is a key driver of competitiveness, growth and progress of nations.” – Tanzania Inclusive National Entrepreneurship Strategy 2025, from the Tanzanian Prime Minister’s Office
In Tanzania, as in many parts of Africa, a shortage of medical devices adapted to the context directly impacts healthcare delivery, particularly in non-urban areas. Research and engineering capacity that could address this exists in the country, but there is a gap between this and industrialization.
Lacks in access to needed medical devices in Tanzania is in part attributable to specific conditions such as frequent power outages or the climate. This impacts outcomes in the primary healthcare sector, notably in terms of treatment for maternal and infant health, sexual and reproductive health, malnutrition, road and traffic accident and malaria. Made-in-Tanzania solutionscould incorporate the understanding of this context and, with local manufacturing, offer job creation and a boost to the economy. Yet there is insufficient access to specialized business training for entrepreneurs who have the skills to design adapted solutions.
This Swiss-Tanzanian partnership is an innovation incubator program that is adapted to the Tanzanian context, but provides access to Swiss expertise in engineering and business. The goal is two-fold:
1. To meet a need for medical devices that are adapted to the context in Tanzania.
2. To foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Tanzania, contribute to job creation and attract investment.
The Ifakara Innovation Hub in Tanzania trains budding health-tech entrepreneurs through techniques such as courses, hackathons, makerspace work and investor pitches. Through a competitive process, the most promising candidates with strong project ideas are selected for the Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) program.
EiR participants come to Switzerland for an internship of approximately three months. While in Switzerland, they work with experts to hone the technical aspects of their projects. A participant may, for example, face challenges in terms of materials to use in order to ensure their device is robust enough for the climate. Importantly, the young entrepreneurs – most of whom have technical or medical backgrounds – also receive business training and expert coaching and mentorship.
Two-thirds or more of the propositions are expected to result in Tanzania-based startups, launched using the EssentialTech methodology for sustainable social business creation. The entrepreneurs will also bring the new knowledge to teams in Tanzania, extending the reach of impact and enabling cross-fertilization and sharing of ideas and opportunities. With local manufacturing of the devices, costs are kept down and job creation will further support the sustainability of the solutions.
The first cohort participated in their residency in 2022.
Entrepreneurs in Residence is a collaboration between EssentialTech, Ifakara Innovation Hub, Ifakara Health Institute and PDPTanzania (Villgro Africa, STICLabs, Robotech Lab, BongoTech). Funding support by the Fondation Botnar and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.