When Chrispinus Onyancha, CEO of clinicPesa — a Ugandan healthtech startup — fell ill in 2016, he walked to a hospital and asked a doctor to treat him in the hope that he would pay when he recovered. However, his request was declined.
Onyancha could not believe he couldn’t pay his medical bills even though he was employed by a multinational in a Ugandan consulting firm.
"I worked as a consultant and made a lot of money. You see, the challenge is we never had health insurance as a child,” Onyancha says.
According to the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) of Uganda, health insurance coverage is less than 1%.
Onyancha began considering alternatives when he learnt about the low prevalence of health insurance in Uganda and how unnecessary some Ugandans thought it was.
"In Uganda, health insurance penetration is very low, less than 0.7%. When you look at Africa, it is less than 2.8%. So, I saw a big opportunity for us to start clinicPesa,” he adds.
Onyancha discussed his idea with Sharon Anyango (COO), whom he met in college. Even though neither had a health-related background, he maintains that their commitment and validation were enough to get them started.
Onyancha has a background in software engineering, and Anyango has worked in operations. So, it was ideal to contact her so that they could leverage their experiences to make clinicPesa a success. Besides, he says he has co-founded a company with a few friends.
Although Onyancha had the idea in 2016, clinicPesa began with market research and had its first pilot in 2017. In 2018, it began developing the technology.
But due to licensing requirements, it couldn’t launch on time. It wasn't until 2021, when the company received approval for most of its licences, that it began spreading awareness and allowing people to use the solution.
clinicPesa's product offerings
clinicPesa gives customers access to healthcare financing. It ensures that people save and use their savings to obtain affordable healthcare.
“Now, affording healthcare starts with a bit of planning. Because we know that most people we are targeting are low-income earners and wage workers, they can make plans by saving a small amount of money,” Onyancha points out.
The service is currently available to everyone living in Uganda. Salary earners can save money with clinicPesa to pay for their medical expenses.
To register, dial *165*5*4#, go to Mobile Money, select clinicPesa, and enter your mobile money PIN to accept the terms and conditions. After that, the startup will open an account for you.
The company claims using the USSD code helps ease the onboarding journey to a two-step journey.
"In Uganda, smartphone penetration is still very low," says Onyancha, explaining why the service is only available via USSD. “Internet connectivity is growing, and adoption is just picking up.”
So, if anyone living in Uganda becomes ill, they simply walk to the nearest healthcare facility and pay from their savings. But if they don't have enough to cover the expenses, clinicPesa provides them with a loan top-up. Customers are eligible for loans up to $1,000 (USh 3.7 million).
The startup claims it uses a machine-learning model to determine how much money you can borrow based on your transactions and savings.
Customers can repay loans in 30 days at a 7% interest rate. But, if they have financial difficulties, the company will extend their payment for another 30 days.
clinicPesa not only provides financing but also healthcare to its customers. You can easily access any of clinicPesa's healthcare partners if you are ill.
The startup claims to partner with 2,435 medical facilities in Uganda, such as clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies, to serve its customers daily.
Thus, it offers clinicPesa Restock to its partners, giving them access to high-quality medicines at low prices. Customers also benefit from this by paying for their treatment at reasonable costs.
“You know, there are a lot of middlemen in the market who have marked-up prices. So, we offer these healthcare centres the medicines they use to treat our customers at an affordable price,” he clarifies.
To register for clinicPesa Restock, you must first request that your clinicPesa merchant account be activated for the offering.
Restock is a solution for healthcare providers that delivers affordable medical supplies right to their door. Customers who have a clinicPesa merchant account can log in to their account and opt-in to begin placing orders.
Moreover, the Ugandan startup provides clinicPesa MaMa's to assist mothers before, during, and after delivery. It typically enables expectant mothers to calculate and understand the cost of their delivery.
It matches a pregnant woman to the maternity centre of her choice, where she will receive antenatal care and deliver her child(ren).
Based on their preferences, the company calculates how much an expectant mother requires so that she can begin saving towards it.
Depending on their savings, they can finance all their antenatal visits, delivery, transportation to healthcare facilities, the birth preparation kit, and upkeep, including baby food and clothing.
Also, friends and relatives can contribute via gifts to a clinicPesa MaMa's account.
According to Onyancha, the platform is unique because clinicPesa integrates several healthcare centres, and its services are affordable.
“Customers don't pay to use our service because we have unique ways of monetising how we generate revenues. When you look at our delivery process, we typically work with customers and are big on convenience,” he says.
What’s more, the company makes transactional fees and generates interest from its loans to customers.
Growth and plans
Obtaining regulatory approval, which required the company to be in a specific status due to its requirements, has been one of its challenges. Although clinicPesa recently raised a pre-seed round, getting funding has been challenging.
Meanwhile, it claims it had 390 customers in 2017. However, as of 2022, it has over 620,000 customers, which it hopes to increase to 1.4 million by the end of 2023.
Per the company, clinicPesa's rapid growth is due to the value it provides to the community.
Onyancha also attributes the company’s growth to the distinct market niche it identified and how it positioned itself to meet the demand.
“Last year, we saw a threefold growth in the customer base, and this is just the start. That's a big milestone for the period that we've actually been in operation here,” he explains.
With a team of 37 employees, clinicPesa wants to increase value for its current customers and expand its user base beyond Uganda, with Ghana and Nigeria in mind.