A sustainable, resilient oxygen infrastructure for COVID and beyond

We are building Africa’s largest network of oxygen entrepreneurs to address the supply gap in medical oxygen generation and distribution across the continent.

The oxygen shortage in Sub-Saharan Africa

Even before COVID, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suffered an immense shortage of medical oxygen for treating conditions like pneumonia, postpartum hemorrhage and infant respiratory distress. The region’s annual supply averaged 4 million cubic meters, a stark shortfall compared to an estimated need of 40+ million cubic meters per year. COVID has unsurprisingly widened this gap, with demand exceeding 50 million cubic meters per year as the pandemic persists.

The opportunity of franchising oxygen supply

ITT is building a multi-country franchise business in SSA, The Oxygen Hub, increase medical oxygen supply to underserved peri-urban areas and small/mid-sized towns. We are partnering with top African healthcare entrepreneurs to build a distributed Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) infrastructure and help them overcome barriers to their sustainability and scale.

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The franchisor supports entrepreneurs with financing, equipment leasing and management support. As the entrepreneurs demonstrate consistent success, they will take over ownership of the assets. With initial focus on underserved peri-urban areas and small/mid-sized towns, distribution will gradually expand into rural areas via a hub-and-spoke model.

This effort will tackle short-term COVID demand while building a resilient, locally-owned-and-managed infrastructure to deal with ongoing medical needs. We’ve started in Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia and plan to expand across the continent. Over the next 3 years, our business model will drive a 3-5x increase in SSA’s oxygen supply and lay the foundation for future growth in smaller countries and rural areas throughout the region.

Evaluating local entrepreneurs

Quality of management and team

Strong CEO with proven track record of impact-oriented business

Strong ties with relevant local and federal government stakeholders

Reputable in industry/market among peers/customers

Strong team beyond CEO (or proven ability to develop talent)

Experience operating in healthcare and logistics

Experience in oxygen delivery or related health/logistics business

Deep understanding of local market and healthcare systems

Experience with public procurement processes

Ability to quickly mobilize resources

Currently have space (or can quickly obtain space) to expand production

Have fulfilled or can quickly fulfill necessary regulatory requirements

We’ll be driven by the following imperatives:

  • Close partnership with other ecosystem actors
  • Build on existing capacity, focusing on identifying the best entrepreneurial talent and strengthening local businesses
  • Strong focus on business rigor, with limited reliance on grants beyond what is essential
  • Commitment to social impact and improved health outcomes
  • Bias towards proven existing technologies rather than technological “bells-and-whistles”
  • Flexible financing and operating models that responds to nuances in each market

Our timeline

Launch immediately then sustainably increase capacity by 3-5x

timeline_oxygen@2x

Our Team and Partners

Our team

Effeson Hailemichael

CEO, The Oxygen Hub

Shashi Buluswar

President, The Oxygen Hub

Etse-Hiwot Girma

Strategist, The Oxygen Hub

Ruth Njuguna

Kenya Country Manager, The Oxygen Hub

Sanjay Khazanchi

Supply Chain Lead, The Oxygen Hub

Advisors

Sam Thenya

Founder & Director of Strategy, The Nairobi Women's Hospital

Nnamdi Agbim

CEO, Interkel Networks

Strive Masiyiwa

Founder and Executive Chairman, Econet Global

Madji Sock

Partner, Dalberg Advisors

Partners

Skoll_o2
GDI_o2

Frequently Asked Questions

Why our approach?

The large incumbents in the oxygen supply landscape are not addressing medical need.

Dominating the region’s oxygen supply are a small number of colonial-era multinational companies holding more than 90% of market share. These large companies operate large, centralized cryogenic air separation plants that produce ultra-high concentration oxygen ( >99% O2) for industrial and medical applications. Focusing exclusively on urban markets, they deliver and pump oxygen into bulk storage tanks connected to networks of tubes running through tertiary referral hospitals. To meet COVID related demand, these large-scale producers have expanded capacity for their urban customers but carry on with de-prioritizing primary and secondary care facilities in fragmented, unprofitable, non-urban markets.

Our goal is to create medium-scale, distributed infrastructure that bring oxygen to underserved parts of the region’s health systems.

The likely footfall of COVID patients

footfall_covid@2x

Footfall of non-COVID patients under normal conditions

footfall_normal@2x

Who can supply the region’s non-urban medical centers and clinics?

Of the various oxygen supply/delivery mechanisms, medium-scale PSA facilities offer the most promising option for non-urban COVID needs and the post-COVID long term

Applicability for segments underserved by existing and COVID surge supply

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What does the current PSA market look like?

In recent years, a small number of entrepreneurs have emerged as alternatives to the large incumbents in the medical oxygen market. These mid-sized operators use pressure swing adsorption (PSA) to produce oxygen of 90-95% concentration for medical use.

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Medium-scale PSA facilities can potentially constitute 40-50% of the supply solution

PSA generators can either plug into medical facilities’ oxygen networks, or they can fill portable cylinders distributed to clinics and hospitals. The medium-scale PSA model offers the potential for expanding oxygen supply well beyond the reach of the large incumbents.

For more information, please contact us.