Havas is proud to support WiNFUND; a 100% not-for-profit project and community-built initiative to advance women-led innovations for health with real-world impact at its centre. Havas SO was the communications partner for the launch supported by Conran Design Group that created the initial brand. Hear more about WiNFUND from Patricia O’Hayer, Global Head Communications & Government Affairs at Reckitt.
Can you tell us more about WiNFUND?
WiNFUND, which stands for the Women in Innovation Fund, is a fund that Reckitt co-founded with the Health Innovation Exchange in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation and Eco Bank Foundation. WiNFUND will invest directly in women entrepreneurs in Africa who are working on solutions to some of the continent’s biggest health challenges. WiNFUND will be partly financed through the sale of WiNFUND NFTs, unique works of digital art designed by Rwandan artist Christella Bijou. WiNFUND will create a global community of like-minded mentors and supporters committed to improving access to healthcare. Additional funding will come from donors, partner organisations, and high net worth individuals.
Why was it created?
WiNFUND was created to address two significant areas of inequality – 1 in 2 people, or half the world, lack access to essential healthcare, and less than 2% of venture capital funding globally goes to women, despite evidence that women entrepreneurs are likely to yield 35% better returns on investment than all-male teams. This means there is huge transformative potential in funding women entrepreneurs already working to close the healthcare gap. Through funding, business support and mentorship, we believe WiNFUND can help these important and innovative businesses scale, to help more people access healthcare.
Can you talk about what the fund hopes to accomplish?
Ultimately, WiNFUND aims to improve access to healthcare for those who need it most. We will do this by investing in women entrepreneurs, but first we need to raise capital and build our network. To this end, we have launched the WiNFUND NFT Africa collection to connect innovators, investors and mentors. Each NFT is a completely unique work of art, with iconography based on African culture as key health priorities: sexual health and water & sanitation. NFT holders will gain access to exclusive events and be invited to join a mentorship scheme, all while knowing their purchase is helping to make a difference in people’s lives. We are asking everyone in our networks for support – either by spreading the word or buying NFTs. To purchase, or find out more, visit winfundnft.org.
What is so exciting about the project for Reckitt, is that it’s a new approach. It’s not the traditional model of philanthropy – it’s investment in a brighter and healthier future. And we are harnessing modern technology for the sake of something good. There are many ways companies can get involved in communities, but we pivot toward things we think can be catalysts for change, and where our position as a manufacturer of health, hygiene and nutrition products gives us the experience, and the right, to speak up for change.
How will you choose grantees? Have they been selected yet?
Since applications opened in September, WiNFUND has received more than 300 applications from enterprises in seven African countries – Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda. We’ve been incredibly impressed by the quality of applicants. Following a rigorous selection process, 16 finalists were announced last week.
Why is it so important to invest in female entrepreneurs?
Women already make up the majority of the world’s healthcare workforce – they are closest to the problems and understand the solutions. If we want to scale the most innovative and inclusive approaches to this global challenge, we need to support women entrepreneurs. It also makes financial sense, as women’s businesses often make better returns than all-male teams. Diversity of viewpoint is a critical strategic imperative.
The fact that women entrepreneurs only receive 2% of venture capital funding means that there are many good ideas struggling to scale. We want to help change that. Plus, women-led companies are already achieving amazing things: improving access to healthcare and saving lives.
Let me tell you about two of our finalists. Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa from Uganda survived breast cancer while in medical school and decided she wasn’t going to allow other women in rural Uganda to go through the pain of living with cancer, simply because they had no access to screening and testing facilities.
Shamim launched Community Healthcare Innovation Lab to screen women in remote locations for cervical and breast cancer using artificial intelligence. This is a great example of how women are improving access to healthcare.
But access is also about affordability. Another finalist, Dr Mercy Ashaba, also from Uganda, is helping people manage the cost of healthcare through the fintech company she co-founded, Peleyta Heath. Her platform helps Ugandans on low incomes save for and afford quality healthcare through the company’s micro savings and lending platform. The name is based on the English phrase: “pay later”.
These are just two examples of the type of critical innovation WiNFUND can accelerate with your help.