Written by Laylah Higgins
Ye! sat down with Ye! Community member, Tafadzwa Kalisto Munzwa, Co-Founder of Zambian health-tech start up Dawa Health provider of maternal health services to Expectant Moms. Tafadzwa shares his story as a young entrepreneur.
How did you start Dawa Health?
My cousin was pregnant, and I witnessed first-hand her experience and difficulty to access maternal health information and support. I did further research and was amazed to learn that of 1.2 million women who give birth in Zambia every year, 70% have difficulties accessing maternal health services. Around 8 mothers die every day in Zambia from non-critical complications that could have been avoided.
These statistics and the experience of my cousin motivated me to look at ways to democratise access to maternal health services. This ties in with my passions, as I am also a medical student at Cavendish University in Zambia. Dawa Health and our DawaMom App have now been running for two years, with Dawa Health officially incorporated in March 2020.
Tell us about Mwaka and the DawaMom App?
Mwaka is a young African mother, excited to be starting a family but anxious to get the right information and support to help manage her pregnancy. Luckily, she discovers the DawaMom App to provide answers! Mwaka is an animated character representing mothers-to-be across Africa and features in our DawaMom App advert.
The concept of Mwaka was initially based on the experiences of my cousin but has been developed to appeal across Africa. Our vision is to expand DawaMom App across the continent. The App is live in Zambia and Zimbabwe and we are looking to expand across Africa.
Through the DawaMom App, we focus on increasing the maternal knowledge that Moms are to have. We do this through sharing weekly advice on expected changes & fetal development, and work to break some of the misconceptions around pregnancy and the birthing process. The app has a multilingual Chatbot (Rudo) to answer questions from moms-to-be. We continue to focus on localising content on the App and developing content in local languages in Zambia.
DawaMom App users can access remote maternal health consultation and receive a self-monitoring kit to track blood pressure and urine metabolites. Mothers-to-be can arrange digital ultrasound scans and receive medical reports via the App. Access to health professionals is key and users can also schedule biweekly visits from Dawa Heath’s community-based health agents. The App also monitors a mother’s progress through pregnancy to childbirth.
How has ITC and the Ye! Community supported your journey?
Following my positive experience of receiving valuable mentoring on a BongoHive accelerator programme in 2018, I was keen to give back and share this experience with others. I have volunteered to be a Mentor with Ye! Community in Zambia to help young entrepreneurs with an understanding of market dynamics and facilitate their networks. The Ye! Community Chapter in Zambia is a great opportunity to network and build connections. It facilitates further projects and opportunities in the Healthtech industry in Zambia and support this key dynamic sector.
One life changing moment with ITC in early 2021 was my participation in the Fast Track Africa programme. This was an opportunity to refine our business plan and the way we work. The programme helped develop our direction and a step-to-step plan to get Dawa to the next level. This was achieved through Business model sessions including an analysis and dissection of the business with valuable feedback and ideas on execution of strategy.
How do you market to and reach potential DawaMoms?
Word of mouth from users of the App is important and we constantly seek feedback on user experience and suggestions to improve the content. One initial challenge for potential members was to address data security. A number of expectant mothers expressed concern with security in sharing personal medical data. We have addressed this by ensuring we have a robust platform. In addition, we partner with reputable interntional organisations, including the UN agencies like UNDP and ITC which inspires further confidence in our users.
Democratising access to maternal healthcare has been a key pillar and this means communication for all. So we have also invested in technology to ensure that mothers-to-be in rural areas, or without access to smartphones or data packages can still obtain support over SMS over SSD and through calls.
In terms of social media, we use Facebook and Facebook ads to spread the word about Dawa Health and engage with the community. We also work with journalists and partner organisations in different communities across Zambia to start valuable conversations about DawaMom.
How has the COVID Pandemic impacted your social enterprise?
The onset of the pandemic helped to accelerate a shift in mindset to digital channels. Expectant mothers were hesitant to visit medical facilities and this has generated a lot of opportunity to provide remote support via the DawaMom App. Despite the pandemic, we have 20 volunteer doctors working with Dawa Health to support rural communities. We can provide remote ultrasounds as well as self-monitoring kits expectant mothers can use to monitor their health.
What goals do you want to achieve with Dawa Health?
We want to target to target a minimum of 350,000 mothers to be on the platform and be able to democratise the maternal health experience through easy access, sharing information and providing medical support. Community support is key and we continue to develop initiatives such as community volunteers with access to cars available to take mothers with no access to transport to healthcare facilities.
We are also working with a foundation in the US linked to John Hopkins University to create training guides to train more community-based health agents to deliver maternal health services and to lower maternal mortality.
To visit Tafadwa's Ye! Community profile click here.
Ye! Community - interesting read? Would you like to share your entrepreneurial journey? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos provided courtesy of Tafadzwa Kalisto Munzwa