How Health-Tech is Delivering Life-Saving Innovation in Kenya

September 29, 2023
Afya health care clinic in kenya Roseline Achieng a patient at Access Afya Nairobi undergoes an Ultrasound using Butterfly IQ technology. Photo: IFC / Daniel Ndung'u.

By Gina Wilkinson and Devon Maylie

In a small health clinic in Nairobi’s Kisii village in Mukuru informal settlement, a mother-to-be is catching the first glimpses of her unborn child.

Christine Wanjiku, who is five-month’s pregnant, is watching the flickering grey and white sonogram images on an iPad held by a sonographer at her side. The iPad is connected to a probe that is capturing the images of her baby as it rolls over in her stomach.  

For low-income earners in Kenya like Wanjiku, access to this type of high-tech medical technology has never been easier thanks to a partnership between Kenyan healthcare clinic, Access Afya, and U.S. health-tech innovator, Butterfly Network.  

Previously, patients such as Wanjiku would have had to travel often far distances to a local hospital for an ultrasound, suffering inconvenience, long wait times—and higher prices. Now, Wanjiku can visit her local Access Afya clinic as a result of Butterfly Network’s portable, easy-to-use device that connects an imaging probe to a smartphone or iPad for a total cost to her of about $7.

“We went from doing scans only one day a week at our clinics, to being able to offer scans on-demand, guided remotely by our sonographer,” said Dr. Daphne Ngunjiri the CEO of Access Afya, which offers low-cost care in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

The new portable systems have allowed Access Afya to quadruple the number of ultrasounds they perform and cut the cost by 30 percent. The new digital tools also mean better care for patients.

Sonography is one of the least invasive diagnostic tools medical professionals can use. The images can provide valuable information for diagnosing and directing treatment for a variety of diseases and conditions as well as tracking the growth of a baby.

“One of the things that I find satisfaction in is that you are able to do a scan at an affordable price,” said sonographer Alfred Kibet. “A sonogram is usually the first imaging option many patients have and we’re making it more accessible. You see the impact in the community.”

dr daphne ngunjiri CEO access afya Interview of Dr.Daphne Ngunjiri CEO of Access Afya, at the Access Afya Headquarters, Nairobi Kenya. Photo: IFC / Daniel Ndung'u.



The partnership between Access Afya and Butterfly Network didn’t happen by accident. Instead, the two companies were brought together by IFC’s TechEmerge program, which matches tech companies across the world with healthcare providers in emerging markets to pilot and scale game-changing innovations where they are needed most.

New technology adoption can be slow in emerging markets due to gaps in awareness of new solutions, know-how regarding local fit, and appropriateness of solutions and financing to test and scale new technologies.

“TechEmerge seeks to address these barriers by identifying the best global technologies for new markets, linking tech firms with local healthcare providers, and providing technical and financial assistance to help the healthcare providers adopt the technologies,” said Loretta Foran, IFC Senior Operations Officer and lead for TechEmerge Health.

Today, Access Afya is using the ultrasound devices across its network of 15 clinics in Kenya, benefitting thousands of people.