Uganda’s MamaOpe fast-tracks the diagnosis of pneumonia through smart jackets

Brian Turyabagye

Pneumonia accounts for 15% of all deaths of children under five years old according to the World Health Organisation. Early diagnosis of pneumonia is key to ensuring successful treatment. Uganda‘s MamaOpe Medicals has developed a biomedical ‘smart jacket’ that it claims diagnoses pneumonia faster and more accurately than a doctor. The company was started in 2017. Co-founder Brian Turyabagye (28) answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

MamaOpe Medicals is a device and software company with a vision to give a fair chance at life to everyone through innovation. We create innovative health solutions for the everyday person, allowing them not only to survive but thrive. Our mission is to bridge the gap in the detection and management of respiratory disease using simple and intuitive digital tools.

2. How did you finance your startup?

At the start, we internally raised funds amongst ourselves which we used on initial costs for the prototypes. Later, we were honoured to participate in the Big Ideas competition (under the University of California, Berkeley) from which we got prize money after emerging second best in the global health category. This was later accompanied by more grants and investment support from various support organisations that we approached.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

At the moment we are targeting mass production and boosting our local research capacity. Our focus would be to set up an assembly and production centre back here in Uganda. Right now the challenge we are facing is if we produce items from abroad they are taxed heavily at the customs entry point. So we would want to cut this cost. It would also mean quicker turnaround times if we get orders.

MamaOpe has invented a ‘smart jacket’ that it claims diagnoses pneumonia in children faster than a doctor.

4. What risks does your business face?

Every day we have to keep thinking of how to keep our product relevant to our market so as not to be affected by any changes in demand forces. We also have to keep ahead of potential competition from other market players.

Right now we are using a jacket, but maybe tomorrow another person will come up with an app that does the same thing. So we always need to stay on top of changing perceptions towards the diagnosis of diseases and the upcoming trends.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Relationship marketing, it never goes wrong. Focusing on fully satisfying one customer’s needs to build loyalty. Your existing customers are the ones who recommend your products to other people in their networks. If you get a bulk order from one customer and you give them the best of your services, they are the ones who will get you other customers. This reduces marketing costs because you don’t have to run around to look for customers – your current customer is the same person who will get you other customers.

Further reading

[June 2020] Using AI to identify the right fit for job seekers and employers in Botswana
[June 2020] The Ethiopian entrepreneur who wants to disrupt the paper industry
[June 2020] Ghana’s Sumundi helps small shopkeepers to digitise their operations
[June 2020] Food processing company taps into health trend with millet snacks
[April 2020] A product that reduces post-harvest losses in Ghana: Entrepreneur shares his story