The TRUE Africa 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today and tomorrow. We’re featuring them over 100 days and we’ve asked them all three questions.
Melissa Menke is a social entrepreneur based in Kenya working on sustainable, high-quality health care solutions in urban poor communities. She founded Access Afya which is all about developing high-quality primary healthcare in informal settlements. That means they’re combining a chain of low-cost micro-clinics where you can book appointments and get medicine. If that weren’t enough, Access Afya are also delivering a comprehensive child health program distributed via the Healthy Schools partner schools.
Why did you leave New York soon after college and decide to launch Access Afya in Kenya?
I spent four years after college working in economic development in a range of geographies and sectors – from Jordan to the US and from housing to finance. I wanted to address systemic issues that made some communities worse off, and I saw social business as an effective tool for change. The voice of the patient is often missing in the design of global health programs.
I started Access Afya to create an organisation that focused on what people in the informal settlements actually wanted and to prove that there could be business opportunities in these markets if people upped the bar on quality.
At Access Afya, we start with the patient and work with them to create experiences that they value. I started Access Afya to create an organisation that focused on what people in the informal settlements actually wanted out of a healthcare system, and to create something that consistently addressed those needs, proving that there could be business opportunities in these markets if people upped the bar on quality.
Which social enterprises are you most excited by in Africa at the moment?
I am very excited to see more movement in product development and local hardware innovation, which is necessary to spur economic growth, not to mention far more environmental and contextually relevant than depending on imports. In Kenya, AB3D is building printers out of recycled waste and next they plan to take on filament production using recycled plastics.
Who is your African of the year?
Okwui Enwezor. He is this year’s curator for the Venice Biennale, and the first African curator for the event. His exhibitions weaved together diverse artists and mediums and showcased work that expressed political, societal and psychological trends.
Catch on them on Twitter @AccessAfya
Have a look at accessafya.com
Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica