Lightspeed makes first investment in Africa, backing Ghana’s Berry Health


Lightspeed makes first investment in Africa, backing Ghana’s Berry Health

Sexual and mental health stigmatization in Africa has evolved over several decades to a point where negligence to address the issue has led to the continent topping the charts in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and mental health cases.


For one, around 11 people per 100,000 die by suicide in Africa yearly, according to the World Health Organization; that’s compared to the global average of nine per 100,000 people. In addition, the sub-Saharan region is second only to Southeast Asia in the highest incidence of STIs, with over 80 million cases annually.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling the stigma around sexual and mental health in Africa considering sporadic governmental efforts. To this end, Berry Health, a several- months-old Ghanaian startup, is throwing its hat into the ring, like many other startups, off the back of a $1.6 million pre-seed round co-led by U.S.-based large-size funds Lightspeed Ventures (its first investment in Africa) and General Catalyst.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Berry Health founder and CEO Fredua Akosa said the health tech startup is “bringing judgment-free health care in a 21st-century way in a continent where stigma cuts deeper and is affecting so many lives.”

Akosa has had quite the career. After moving from London, where he grew up, to Ghana, where he completed medical school, the chief executive practiced as a general practitioner for five years in hospitals around rural and urban areas. But at Yale, where he was advancing his studies in public health as a researcher, and later at Oxford during his MBA, Akosa said he discovered tech’s place in healthcare to “impact lives at scale.”

“During the pandemic, I’d come over to Ghana to visit family and of course, I had a lot of patients, including family members and friends, asking for free consultations. During that period, I realized a massive explosion in mental health conditions and conditions around stigmatized health care,” said the British-Ghanaian medical doctor. “People felt so embarrassed going to the hospital and talking about things they felt ashamed of when they shouldn’t have. That was the genesis for me for Berry: just realizing that there is a huge need to break stigma in health through technology.”

If Africa having the highest rates of suicide, clinically diagnosed depression and sexually transmitted infections globally paints a stark picture of the continent, the continent’s low ratio of doctors to individuals (1:10,000) paints a starker picture (in contrast to 30 doctors per 10,000 people in the U.S. and 37 doctors per 10,000 in Europe). The good news, however, is that with help from pandemic-changing behaviors, this situation has accelerated the use of telemedicine, virtual care and drug-delivery platforms in Africa, fueling investor interest in Africa’s health tech in recent years; Yodawy, Reliance Health, Healthtracka, Helium Health, Esaal and MyHealth Africa are a few beneficiaries across the continent.


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