Advancing Digital Health in the Arab World
In an age where digital transformation shapes every aspect of our lives, the field of healthcare stands at a pivotal crossroads. The Arab countries, rich in culture and history, have already started embarking on a transformative journey to integrate digital health more profoundly and effectively. This manifesto serves as a clarion call to revolutionize digital health in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Acknowledging the Global Landscape
We recognize the strides made in digital health in regions like the United States and Europe. The development of digital health markets in these areas is a testament to innovation and foresight. European cities like Barcelona, Vienna, Paris, London, and Geneva have established local digital health clusters, fostering ecosystems of innovation and collaboration. In addition, there are EU-wide organizations supporting the digital health revolution, such as European Connected Health Alliance, and Digital Health Europe Consortium.
The picture is similar in North America, though with even greater participation of the private sector. For instance, there are at least two digital health-specific VCs -- StartUp Health and Rock Health providing their portfolio companies with much more than capital, including help with their marketing and PR activities.
Contrasting with MENA's Current State
While appreciating global advancements, we observe a significant gap in the MENA region's adoption and development of digital health solutions. This disparity is not a reflection of capability but rather an opportunity for targeted growth and investment.
Rich GCC countries have made sure their hospitals and health systems use the latest technological advancements in healthcare from Western countries while their VCs invest across the market. There is a limited number of digital health startups in the region, so there is no need to have a VC that invests exclusively in this sector.
As for local startups, in most cases, they tend to bring business models that have been established in the West to their markets. And so we have a plethora of similar companies in areas such as wellness, telehealth, online pharmacy, and mental health.
On the other hand, there are just a few companies in sectors like digital therapeutics and biotech. In addition, while blockchain and metaverse are getting traction in MENA, we don't see many companies bringing these technologies to healthcare.
Build More Locally
One of the goals of this manifesto is to encourage entrepreneurs to build more locally. The GCC and the wider MENA region have enough talent and money to bring its digital health startup ecosystem to a new level.
Some technologies will have to be imported, including those developed and provided by tech giants like Microsoft and Google, but there is still room for innovation.
Companies from the West and Far East will want to enter the lucrative GCC markets, and it should be up to local entrepreneurs to develop solutions that could compete with imported ones. Local governments on their end can support their startups' innovative efforts with training, facilities, labs, funds, and laws favoring procurement from domicile businesses.
This is already happening in some places but has yet to produce a critical mass of startups, at least in the digital health space.
Vision for DHArab.com
Catalyzing Local Innovation: DHArab.com was created as a beacon of progress and connectivity. Its purpose is to ignite and sustain local innovation in the digital health sector across Arab countries. By leveraging local talents and resources, DHArab.com aims to foster environments where digital health can thrive.
A Communication Channel: DHArab.com is envisioned as a dynamic communication platform, bridging gaps between innovators, healthcare providers, and investors. This platform will facilitate the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and success stories within the digital health sector in the MENA region.
Education and Awareness: DHArab.com also aims to educate healthcare professionals and the general public about the benefits of digital health. This initiative aims to increase acceptance and adoption, ensuring that digital health solutions are effectively integrated into daily healthcare practices.
And we're just getting started.
Call to Action
We at DHArab.com are not from the region, but we see the great potential in MENA. Compared to North America and Europe, people in MENA are younger, and there is also a lot of optimism and willingness to change. The money is there as well, especially in the GCC countries.
As noted above, we want to gather the entire digital health ecosystem in MENA and help it prosper. For that, we do need a partner (or more of them). Specifically, we are looking for a VC, a family office, an agency, or an NGO that could support us with local operations and financially.
We are looking to raise $228,000 and are willing to give 20% of DHArab.com in return. Most of that goes to salaries, allowing us to focus all our efforts on our platform. Or you may want to acquire all of DHArab and keep us on board — we are open to different ideas.
It is our belief that we can help establish more digital health startups in MENA. Together, let's build a healthier, digitally empowered Arab world.
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