British International Investment


Impact of our funds portfolio: How a company is ensuring vaccines are stored safely in developing countries

What's the challenge?

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 28 per cent of healthcare facilities can access reliable electricity, according to the World Bank. Often hospitals and clinics rely on diesel-run generators to make up the power deficit, but these are unreliable, costly, and bad for the environment.

Over the past two years, the global COVID-19 pandemic shone a harsh light on the realities of providing effective healthcare in regions lacking fundamental infrastructure. We know that access to energy is critical to preventing disease and fighting outbreaks when they do occur.

One clear example of the need for power is the provision and distribution of vaccines. Deploying vaccines is a complicated process, relying on supply chain coordination and effective logistics. Furthermore, many vaccines including those for malaria and COVID-19, require cold storage to remain usable, adding further complications to the process. Vaccines that haven’t been cooled and stored properly can lose their efficacy, create additional waste, and ultimately risk increasing the loss of life.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to half of the world’s supply of vaccines may be wasted globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation estimates that in some emerging economies, fewer than 5 per cent of health centres have vaccine grade refrigerators.

How is the business addressing this challenge?

SureChill is a company, headquartered in Wales and operating worldwide, using revolutionary technology to build refrigerators that provide continuous cooling despite fluctuations in power supply.

The technology means that the fridges provide continual cooling at 2-8°C, and even if power is lost completely, they will keep vaccines at a safe temperature for 10 days or more. This provides crucial time for vaccines to be protected from power cuts, stored and administered, especially within more rural and remote communities. While the company’s ‘freeze free’ guarantee prevents loss from temperature fluctuations, eliminating accidental freezing of vaccines through human error.

The vaccine refrigerators were first launched into the medical market in 2011 and have since been approved by the World Health Organization to store COVID vaccines, providing vital storage in areas with intermittent power supplies.

The technology has been recognised and purchased by other global development organisations, including UNICEF, and the devices are currently being used in more than more than 60 countries, ensuring vaccines remain cool and effective in some of the world’s most challenging environments.

As well as reaching a greater number of healthcare facilities with its medical off-grid solar product, the company is working on a pay-as-you-go, off-grid solar product for households. It is estimated around 420 million people globally rely on off-grid products for their power, with solar providing an emissions-free energy access solution.

The demand for pay-as-you-go financing for products is expected to grow significantly over the next few years as customers use it to access life-enhancing products on fair and affordable terms.. In addition, access to refrigeration is shown to provide significant benefits to households in emerging markets. A study we conducted found that having a solar-powered fridge is estimated to save households around $4.82 per week from fewer trips to the market, less expenditure on cooking fuel, and less food waste due to spoilage.

If you’re interested in finding out more about SureChill, you can reach the team here.

We are invested in the company through our commitment to Novastar Ventures Africa Fund II, which is managed by Novastar Ventures Limited.

Novastar Ventures is a VC firm operating from Lagos, London and Nairobi and was formed to join and fuel an entrepreneurial movement that is transforming markets and sectors in Africa. The firm primarily invests in education, healthcare, agri-businesses, food, and water sectors, partnering with entrepreneurs to build businesses that endure to create value for the many, not just the few.

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