The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) might be tough terrain in which to launch a tech startup, but e-health company WapiMED is in the process of monetising its platform, which combines healthcare with payments.
Launched in 2016, WapiMED is a geolocated directory for care providers in Africa, which helps users find and access listed health professionals. On top of this, it is developing MEDpay, which co-founder José Zefu Kimpalou told Disrupt Africa is the Western Union or MoneyGram for healthcare expenses in Africa.
“The service is combining online payments, mobile banking and top-up cards with the aim of easing health remittances between money senders in the African diaspora and care providers in a easy, fast and secure way, to support their family members in accessing quality care in their home countries,” Kimpalou said.
“By using MEDpay, the money sender knows exactly how the money will be used while the care providers are receiving patients for whom bills are prepaid. It’s a win-win experience.”
Kimpalou was inspired to launch WapiMED after finding out about US-based appointment booking platform Zocdoc. The objective is to improve the way the African diaspora supports family members when they need treatment in their home countries.
“We believe that we can do it in a better, cheaper and more effective way,” he said.
The startup is self-funded, but has been selected to participate to the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), giving it access to a US$5,000 grant. Kimpalou said it was about to start meeting investors in a bid to raise funds.
“The Congolese target audience has been, so far, really receptive. We have had a lot of positive feedbacks,” he said.
“The care providers are excited to be part of our journey, and we have just signed a partnership with one of the biggest hospitals in Kinshasa. We are going to have more hospitals signed up in the near future.”
Though only operating in DRC for now, WapiMED also has care providers registered in several other countries, including Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
“So after DRC, we are going into expand in one of these countries, most likely Senegal or Ivory Coast, to start as soon as there is a good opportunity to do so,” said Kimpalou.
“By launching our service MEDpay, we are going to start our monetisation phase. The business model is pretty simple, we are going to get a small commission on the remittances when a money sender from the diaspora in Brussels, Paris, New York or Johannesburg pays for the healthcare expenses to support their family in Kinshasa, Dakar or Abidjan.”
So what challenges are there associated with launching a tech startup in DRC?
“Most of the time when you launch a business in Congo, you are on your own, there is not a really a structure that helps you and tries to tell you what mistakes you have to avoid,” Kimpalou said.
“Another big challenge is how to raise funds, we don’t have business angels or VCs here so most of the time we have to find VCs in Europe, North America or Asia, ready to invest in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
No easy feat, but with solid uptake and rollout continuing, he is confident WapiMED has what it takes to scale beyond its borders.