Photo credit: UNJANI CLINIC NPC
Unjani Clinics have been so successful that the network has grown to include 26 clinics throughout South Africa since launching in 2011 and is expected to increase to 41 by the end of the year. This prompted me to ask myself, is it possible to scale up this innovation even further, to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa?
We have a natural tendency to repeat what we know works, a natural desire to mitigate risk. Initially, in Kenya, we hoped to replicate the Unjani model as closely as possible. We soon learned that what worked in South Africa may not be feasible in Kenya, and what didn’t work for the Unjani Clinics could potentially be repurposed for ReaMedica. True innovation is an outcome of leveraging risk and uncertainty with tremendous potential, and in order to harness that potential for ReaMedica, we realized we had to be comfortable with deviating from and tailoring the Unjani model to the Kenyan context.
Through the support of the Trust Network, a group of J&J employees and partners who regularly collaborate, I met team members from Trust Flagship Partner, the Aga Khan Foundation, who helped me shape the service and business model for the first ReaMedica clinic in Kenya. A few months later, we received seed funding from the Trust accelerator program and then additional funds from a Kenyan investor who had, up until then, found it too risky to invest in medical clinics. I am anxious to open our first clinic doors in October of this year. With the Trust’s continued support, our goal is to eventually expand this social enterprise model and create a network of clinics delivering affordable, quality care to low income families everywhere.
By Michael Seo, Founder and Director, ReaMedica and Recipient of Trust Accelerator Grant