“Many people in Africa lack access to basic information regarding sexual health because of the taboo that surrounds the topic.”
That’s according to Cameroonian entrepreneur Adamou Nchange Kouotou, founder of Africa Health Initiative – the creator of Kalanda app.
He hopes to ensure teenagers and young adults in Cameroon have easy access to reliable information on sexual and reproductive health; rather than being put off from seeking help due to fear of talking about sex.
Kouotou launched Kalanda app in May 2015, rolling it out during a university sports festival at the University of Yaounde – it is his third startup, his previous two initiatives having failed.
“I’m much more proud of Africa Health Initiative than my first two startups because it addresses a very important issue in the life of people of my community.
Kalanda app allows users to send in questions related to sexual health via SMS, with an accurate reply – provided by healthcare professionals – provided within 24 hours. In addition, the app provides fertility services for women, via an SMS alert service, providing them with information and important dates about their fertility cycle throughout the month.
The startup’s revenue model relies on advertising and sales of related products.
Only a year after launching, 13,000 people already regularly use Kalanda app.
Kouotou believes he has found a way to ensure people have all the important information they need at their fingertips; but also hopes he has started the ball rolling towards making reproductive health a more discussable topic within communities.
“Our goal is to cut down the rates of unwanted pregnancies, and deaths due to sexual diseases. We want to build a community in which parents are more comfortable talking sexual subjects with their children, and where people are able to give relevant advice to their friends because they have used our platform,” Kouotou says.
While Kouotou says in Cameroon, not enough has been done to leverage mobile technology in providing educational services, he believes m-health plays a crucial role in the future of healthcare in the country.
“Cameroon is among the lowest m-health-developed countries in Africa. In recent years, the government has tried to show the way through some projects. The impact of those projects is real but there is still much to do. I believe that this sector is going to grow fast in the coming years, because of the penetration rate of internet which is increasing rapidly across the country,” he says.
However, there are obstacles to the success of tech-fueled startups in Cameroon, Kouotou says. The government has failed to introduce startup supportive regulations; and funding presents an often insurmountable challenge.
“The main difficulty entrepreneurs face in rolling out their company in Cameroon is the institutional framework. The same rules and taxes apply to early stage companies and well established companies – making it difficult for startups to enter the market,” Kouotou says.
“Also, it is difficult for a startup based in Cameroon to raise funds, because local investors are afraid to invest in innovation and international investors don’t know enough the ecosystem of startups in Cameroon. Banks in turn require startups to present too much by way of guarantee – which the startups don’t possess – in order to give them credit.”
Kouotou has self-funded Kalanda app to date, and is not phased by the challenges of the market.
“In the next five years, we will mainly focus on developing the company in Cameroon. Then we will expand to all the countries of West and Central Africa.”