Kenyan-based digital health firm M-Tiba is expanding rapidly in the populous Nigerian market. Already it has footprints in three states of Lagos, Kwara, and Ogun and has signed up about 6,000 members and 600 healthcare providers on its platform.
The tech firm is also setting sights on more cities in the market in the near future.
And although M-Tiba is now growing rapidly, it was not a walk in the park initially.
“When we went in, the first challenge we encountered was about brand recognition. M-Tiba is a Kenyan innovation, and it only resonates with East Africa. The Nigerian market believes in its brands. So we used CarePay Nigeria to penetrate the market,” says M-Tiba managing director Moses Kuria.
“Getting additional money from the government to invest in a public health insurance scheme was also a challenge. It is also tough getting people to sign up and buy insurance or pay premiums.
Unlike Kenya, the Nigerian private insurance market model relies on health management organisations rather than full prime health insurance providers. M-Tiba works with a number of them, in Lagos and Kwara states.
To overcome these challenges, M-Tiba created what it calls the ‘Carepay health discount card’ where Nigerians now access health services at various select providers and can enjoy discounted medical fees.
Another hurdle was the lower mobile money penetration in Nigeria than in Kenya.
“Most of the payments are paid out of pocket. Healthcare remains unaffordable for the masses, but technology like M-Tiba can play a major role in unlocking that,” Mr Kuria notes.
Since its establishment in 2015, M-Tiba has enrolled more than 4.7 million users across Africa and handled over one billion transactions through more than 3,100 healthcare providers.
The platform connects health insurers with patients and medicare providers, easing transactions and boosting trust and transparency.
“Our ambition for the next 10 years in Kenya and Nigeria is to make sure that 100 million people are covered through the use of technology. In Kenya, we want to hit the 10 million mark.”
However, creating trust has not been easy, especially in the market riddled with fraud and inefficiency “because the industry is paper-based”, meaning verification of, for example, claims, is often slow.
Through adoption of cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, the MD is of the opinion that M-Tiba can capture will ensure patient claims are paid on time. He believes platforms like M-Tiba are crucial to repairing the lost trust.
“Today, if you are a member of M-Tiba you know exactly what you are entitled to as you can buy health insurance on your phone, track healthcare spending on your phone, and know where you can go for care. That’s the empowerment; being able to control your health.”
Hospital payments are now fast-tracked because there is assurance that there will be no dispute.
After getting the basics right in the West African market, Mr Kuria says the firm plans further expansion.
In the West African market, the firm expects to grow beyond Nigeria and set up country offices in Ghana, Egypt, and South Africa through partnership. It is also eyeing Ethiopia and Tanzania where Safaricom — its partner — has a presence.
“It’s our ambition to scale across Africa since the kind of quality of life and economic empowerment we are talking about will not happen without affordable healthcare,” he notes.