Taking a Pulse on Health Care Social Enterprise in Nigeria
Powerful Economy, but Many Remain Left Behind
The plane touched down in Lagos, a megacity of more than 20 million people. Located in southwestern Nigeria in West Africa, Lagos is a port city just off the Gulf of Guinea. Toward year-end, it’s common for temperatures to hover around 90 degrees, enhanced by the sweeping humidity off the Gulf waters.
FINCA’s head of Communications, Michael Leen, recently spent a week in Lagos and several other cities in Nigeria with one of our newest FINCA Ventures partner companies, MDaaS Global. MDaaS (“Medical Devices as a Service”) builds and operates modern, convenient and affordable diagnostic centers in underserved communities. Michael took the trip to meet with staff, patients and doctors in the MDaaS network and return to the U.S. with stories and photos about their impactful work.
The MDaaS clinics, operating under the name BeaconHealth Diagnostics, offer imaging, cardiac and lab services to identify health issues earlier and more accurately for effective treatment. These services are scarcely available in secondary and tertiary cities across Nigeria. Where available, medical diagnostic care is usually cost-prohibitive for the average citizen.
Despite boasting Africa’s biggest economy and being a leading investment destination for start-ups, Nigeria is home to more extremely poor people than any other nation on Earth. In fact, impoverished Nigerians are growing by six people every minute, driven in part by birthrates. The world’s fastest growing population, heavy infectious disease prevalence and a rise in non-communicable diseases position Nigeria for an intractable health crisis.
Behind-the-Scenes at MDaaS
Upon arriving in Nigeria, Michael met with the founders of MDaaS in Lagos to review the itinerary and goals before setting out. The founding team consists of four energetic entrepreneurs—two Nigerians and two Americans—including a married couple. Over traditional Nigerian fare—spicy egusi soup (melon seeds, green vegetables, onions) with pounded yam—the group discussed the local health care landscape and how FINCA could support this innovative social enterprise on its journey.
Lagos, however, was just the first stop. To really see MDaaS in action, Michael spent a week traveling throughout southeastern Nigeria, from Ibadan to Ilorin. The heart of the trip was interacting with MDaaS and BeaconHealth staff, patients and referral doctors. Each encounter was a chance to learn about the experiences, perceived benefits and ways to better serve them.
Michael met with pregnant women getting ultrasound scans as part of prenatal care. He spoke with the elderly who needed lab work, such as blood tests, to diagnose ailments. A U.S. physician shared his amazement with the clinic’s X-ray imaging clarity, used to diagnose a hairline knee fracture. Nigerian staff commented on the benefits MDaaS has brought to the community, and to their family’s wellbeing through job creation. Referring doctors remarked on the supreme importance of, finally, having quick, reliable diagnostic health data for their patients.
Most of all, patients elaborated on the quality experience that MDaaS provided. After visiting a nearby government-run hospital, it was easy to see why.
The bright, organized MDaaS environment stood in sharp contrast to the labyrinth of dark, crowded corridors of the public hospital. Instead of standing in an endless queue or sitting on a cement floor, MDaaS patients relax in chairs sipping tea and watching TV while waiting for their names to be called. When you factor in test result speed and accuracy, the MDaaS patient experience was leaps and bounds better.
Throughout the trip, while Michael was busy interviewing people, a photographer that he brought along was busy capturing photos. Photography in a health care setting, however, was much more challenging than on other assignments. Client consent is of utmost importance to the FINCA team on any story gathering trip. In a medical facility, the emphasis on permission coupled with privacy was heightened.
After four days in Nigeria, Michael came away with over 20 stories. Together, these showcase the work of FINCA Ventures partner, MDaaS, as told by their staff, patients and referring doctors. The team looks forward to sharing these success stories with FINCA supporters soon.