Catalytic Innovation: Access to affordable quality primary health care


While still in Kenya, let’s look at another example in Nairobi

In Kenya, 80% of Kenyan doctors and dentists live in Nairobi while 70% of the population lives in rural areas. Kenya’s ratio of doctor to population is 14 doctors to every 100,000 people. This results in a serious lack of access to doctors in Kenya.

Healthstore Clinics aims to provide affordable healthcare to communities in Kenya by training local residents to provide basic health care, and help them set-up and operate their own clinics.

This model turns residents [often nurses and health practitioners] into clinic owners.

Strict standards and regular inspections by the Healthstore foundation ensure uniform quality heath care. Healthstore clinics are funded through microloans at affordable rates.

Is the Healthstore Clinic model catalytic innovation? let’s test it:

  1. Creating social change: Healthstore Clinic provides access to quality health care to people in rural areas.
  2. Scalable and replicable: the Healthstore Clinic model is a franchise concept and therefore highly scalable
  3. Meet un-served needs: Population in rural that cannot access health care. 70% of the population in rural areas struggle to access quality health care facilities.
  4. Offer products that are simpler and less costs: Combined Healthstore clinics are able to buy in bulk and access bulk discounts for the patients. Patients therefore benefit from these bulks discounts by paying less for medication.
  5. Generate resources: The Healthstore franchisees are able to raise funding from micro-loan facilities in Kenya.
  6. Disparaged or looked down upon: Often health facilities in rural and shanty areas are looked down upon.

Healthstore Clinics have democratized access to quality affordable health care in rural areas to people who could not access it before.

This is how social impact is achieved at a financially sustainable manner.


Catalytic Innovation: Affordable quality makerspace


Let’s look at another example of catalytic innovation, this time from East Africa, Kenya.

Often we are told that many successful startups started from humble beginnings by starting a in a garage such Apple, Microsoft, Google.

In Africa, where having a house with a garage is a luxury.

In Nairobi, a garage is something most entrepreneurs don’t have.

Meet Dr Kamau Gachigi. He has spent a number of his years in Engineering working towards, not only having more engineers through lecturing, but also having engineers who make stuff.

He is the founder of Gearbox, a non-profit organization that provides members with access to modern machines for proto-tying and low volume manufacture.

Gearbox also does training and incubation and acceleration services in order to broaden access to manufacturing in Kenya.

The Gearbox model is like a gym, you pay monthly membership fee and get access to any machine you want to use for produce hardware.

Is Gearbox catalytic innovation?

Let’s test it against the traits of what makes catalytic innovation:

  1. Social Impact: Creating more entrepreneurs, creates jobs, alleviates poverty and uplifts lives
  2. Scalable: Sharing space gives access to more entrepreneurs.
  3. Affordable: Gearbox charges around $50 per month on use of the space with tools and machines, vs. Market price for a workshop space without tools and machines is more than $200 per month
  4. Generate resources: Gearbox has been to access funding from various organisations including international organisations.
  5. Disparaged or looked down: sharing space with other people instead of having your own fancy workshop is often frowned upon.

Kamau through Gearbox has been able to democratize access to working space to thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs who could not access it because it was not affordable.

Catalytic Innovation: Affordable quality heath care


Let’s start by looking at an example of catalytic innovation here at home, South Africa.

People walking into a well-resourced health centre in a township and getting immediate help is very rare in poorer areas of South Africa like Diepsloot, a shantytown of about 1000 000 people 40 kilometres outside Johannesburg.

Dr. Nthabiseng Legoete did something about it.

Dr Legoete started Quali Health in May 2016.

Quali Health is a social enterprise focused on delivering affordable primary healthcare to marginalized communities in South Africa.

Within 5 months Quali Health was turning a profit and now sees over 3,000 patients a month.

How is Quali-Health a catalytic innovation?

  1. Creating social change: Quali-Health provides quality health care that is critical to poor communities.
  2. Scalable and Replicable: Quali-Health opened similar clinics in other areas such as Alexandra, Tembisa and Braamfischer giving access to quality private health care to more people who can’t afford quality health care.
  3. Meet un-served needs: 80% of South Africans don’t have medical aid. Quali Health serves this market.
  4. Offer products that are simpler and less costs: Circumcision or a pap smear test, costs only R250 [$25]. General practitioners in Johannesburg charge R500 $50 just for consultation alone.
  5. Generate resources: Has attracted funding from various funders.

Nthabiseng has been able to democratize quality primary health care to thousands of people who could not afford it before.

Catalytic Innovation: How do we respond to the poverty crisis?

Investing In Ideas

As an entrepreneur and having spent over 10 years studying various entrepreneurship models, I’m convinced that our answer lies in innovation, especially innovation for social change.

You see there are two types of innovations:

Sustaining Innovation vs. Disruptive Innovation.

Sustaining Innovation:

A sustaining innovation improves existing products. It does not create new markets. It produces better quality products augmenting existing ones, meet existing customer needs.

Example of sustaining innovation would be when Apple introduces upgraded version of iPhones 6, 7, 8.

Disruptive Innovation:

A disruptive innovation helps creates new markets. It offers simpler, more convenient, less expensive products and in the process creating new customer base.

A classic example of disruptive innovation is Henry Ford’s Model T.

Through mass production, Henry Ford democratized the ownership of cars by making them simpler and affordable to own to millions of people who could not afford them.

Before that cars were expensive and only owned by the elites, rich people and kings.

By democratize I mean to making social services accessible to thousands of people at affordable rates in a sustainable manner.

Modern examples of disruptive innovation is:

  • Low-cost airline carriers that provides no frills flights, making flying accessible to a lot people who could not afford it;

I would like to introduce another type of innovation, called: Catalytic Innovation.

But what is catalytic innovation you asked? 

Based on Clayton Christensen’s disruptive-innovation model, catalytic innovations challenge organizations by offering simpler, good-enough solutions aimed at un-served groups.

Catalytic innovation shares the same traits as disruptive innovative but focuses more on social change.

Disruptive innovation – seeks to increase competitiveness, whiles Catalytic innovation – seeks to solve social problems

Here are the 5 qualities of Catalytic Innovation: [Slide]

1 Create systematic social change through scaling and replication

2 Meet un-served needs of the market.

3 Offers products that are simpler, affordable but good enough for customers

4 They generate: resources, donations, grants, volunteer manpower, and intellectual property

5 Often ignored, disparaged by existing players

The idea of catalytic innovation is to democratize social services and make them easier and accessible to many people who could not access them.

To solve poverty we need to stop obsessing about building elitist institutions, but focus on building institutions that will offer simple, accessible, good enough and affordable products to poor communities.

How do we solve the poverty crisis? through innovation, innovation for social change.

Catalytic Innovation: Aggressive spending and disappointing returns.


A life lived in poverty is always about scrambling.

Poverty is hunger.

Lack of shelter.

Not having a job or career prospect.

Not having access to education.

Losing a child to illness due to unclean water.

Being sick and not having the means to receive medical attention.

Cursed with poverty, people [not simply people, they are our relatives, our distant cousins, friends of friends, people just a few handshakes away in the global network in which we are all connected] waste opportunities not because they are lazy because they cannot see them.

The latest statistics say that 13.8 million people in South Africa live in extreme poverty.

This means if this auditorium takes about 200 people, 50 in this room live in extreme poverty. 50. Half the world lives on less that $2.50 a day.

We are so used to poverty that we are immune to the consequences of what it does to society.

According to 2014 World Bank statistics, South Africa spends 9% of Total GDP on health Care. Comparable countries spend about 6% of Total GDP on Health Care.

However, South Africa is ranked 119 out of 195 countries in health care.

We spend more healthcare, but we get less outcomes.

South Africa spends about 8% of Total GDP on education but in 2016 it ranked 137 out of 139 at the overall quality of education.

Again we spend more on education and get less outcomes.

This pattern of aggressive spending and disappointing returns in the social sector is not limited to the South Africa.

The United States of America spends more money per capita on health care, yet it lags behind many of its peers.

It spends more on education, yet it comes in 24th out of 29 for mathematical literacy test.

We can safely say that the problem is not money. The money is there, but the solution lies elsewhere.

The problem of poverty can be solved in our lifetime.


Where to start


Start your first business this way:

Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have.

Charge less than it’ is worth and more than it costs you.


You do not have to wait for perfect or large or revered or amazing.

You can start.

LORA Entrepreneurship Series: Mr. Jabu Stone – Saturday, 10 March 2018

Jabu Stone

LORA Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship strives to bring thought leaders, men and women who are pathfinders, entrepreneurs and change agents, men and women who have affected the very fibre of our thought processes, who influence our set of beliefs, and engage our mindsets in elements of value. 

LORA has invited experienced entrepreneurs to share their stories with us.

On Saturday, 10 March 2018, we are host the legendary Mr. Jabu Stone.

To many South Africans, the name Jabu Stone is synonymous with hair care, especially dreadlocks, which has earned him the nickname ‘Mr Dreads’.

His love of natural hair [and his quest for an alternative to the harsh chemicals women were using on their hair] and his entrepreneurial spirit drove him to create the brand that carriers his name, one of the most enduring and successful brands in South Africa.

How did he manage to create a brand where there was no brand for dreadlocks?

How did he manage to change the stereotypes of how people looked at dreadlocks from unclean hair to something that people today proud to do?

How difficult was it to start the Jabu Stone brand and compete [successfully] with other well-established brands?

To answer all these questions, come join us and interact with Bra Jabu on his entrepreneurship journey.

Date: Saturday, 10 March 2018

Time: 13:00 – 14:30

Charge: R100 

Space is very limited.

To RSVP and pay:

[LORA Centre students and alumni get 100% discount]

Venue: Midrand [3 Tybalt Place, Waterfall Office Park, Bekker Road, Vorna Valley, Midrand. [there is secured parking]