Two Kenyan health startups picked for Google AI Growth Academy

Tuesday September 26 2023

The Google logo seen outside its company offices. PHOTO | NMG


Two Kenyan health startups have been selected by Google for a three-month Growth Academy that infuses artificial intelligence (AI) for development in the healthcare industry.

The companies, Zuri Health and iZola Limited will be among 30 others selected globally and part of the five selected in Africa for the hybrid program whose aim is to support promising startups that use AI technology to grow and innovate responsibly.

The training will involve mentorship and networking events with company founders coming up with data-driven strategies that will open doors for new customers and partnerships.

They will use the opportunity to learn and take advantage of emerging technologies to expand to new markets.

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“Africa's innovative spirit in the AI for Health domain is profoundly inspiring. These startups stand as a testament to the continent's ability to develop global health solutions. We aim to stand alongside them, offering support and partnership as they strive to scale and disseminate their groundbreaking solutions,” said Yuval Passov, Head of Google for Startup and lead of the program.


The two startups embrace telemedicine with iZola Limited specifically focusing on supporting families with neurodivergent children via an AI-integrated therapeutics platform.

Telemedicine in the country is gaining momentum and studies show that it peaked during the pandemic.

“We showed that the coronavirus pandemic had a modest increase in the utilisation of telemedicine for healthcare services delivery during the pandemic period probably due to limited infrastructure to scale up,” says a study published in the International Journal of Telemedicine and Applications this year.

The study shows that Kenyan doctors are now more aware of telemedicine options, which they fully embrace.

“The current utilisation in Kenya is to support doctor-to-doctor consultations and provide education with minimal utilisation in actual healthcare delivery,” explains the study.

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However, the study shows that there are hurdles to its use and implementation at scale in the country.

“There is limited single use of telemedicine in providing direct clinical services to patients. Telemedicine is regularly used in combination with in-person clinical services, allowing for continuity of clinical services beyond the physical hospital infrastructure,” says the researchers.

“Africa and other developing countries, significant improvements are needed in multiple areas cutting across regulatory, infrastructural, legal, and financial, to better support telemedicine services and improve healthcare delivery,” they add.

The scientists also suggest that the inclusion of telemedicine in healthcare providers’ curricula in their training programs may also promote awareness and uptake of telemedicine in the country.

A report forecasting the country’s telehealth market released by 6Wresearch in 2020 showed that there is likely to be a two-fold increase in uptake of the new digital health options. This prediction was made for six years between 2020 and 2026.

“With a market value worth a double-digit billion number, the market is anticipated to reach a triple-digit revenue value and is expected to register significant growth in the next decade. This significant rise in the market value can be attributed to the rising adoption of digitalised and the virtual platform underpinned by the superior growth patterns in the healthcare sector,” said the report.

The report details that the uptake is supported by the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses in the country.

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“The increase in the healthcare costs, a spur in the technological innovations in the healthcare sector, and efforts to find a resolution to address the accessibility issues of the healthcare sector in remote areas which have been a perennial problem in the developing economies across the world are expected to ramp up double-digit growth prospects for the Kenya telehealth market,” they explained.

Five years after introducing the Google for Startups Accelerator programs in Africa, Google has so far supported 106 startups from 17 African countries.

These startups have collectively raised over $263 million in funding and created more than 2,800 jobs.