October 15, 2019

Joining forces with the European Space Agency to make healthcare accessible worldwide

Too many people in emerging countries are unable to obtain affordable access to healthcare due to a lack of social security, while huge gaps in coverage exist that are not being met by public services or private insurance. To help tackle this issue, AXA is joining forces with the European Space Agency (ESA) in a partnership that will enable ESA’s cutting-edge expertise in satellite technology, data management, artificial intelligence and digitization to be harnessed for the provision of seamless and sustainable healthcare.

Read time:3 minutes

We spoke to Nick Appleyard, Head of Downstream Business Applications at ESA and Hassan El Shabrawishi, CEO of AXA One Health about the launch of the new partnership.

Number of physicians per 10,000 people
in Egypt, compared to 33 in France
Out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure
in Nigeria in 2016
People that would be covered
by improvement to healthcare services in Egypt and Nigeria

What was the impetus for this partnership between AXA and ESA?

Hassan El Shabrawishi: We met with ESA at the Internet of Things Tech Expo in Amsterdam in June 2019, where both organizations soon became very interested in the possibility of forming a partnership in areas where our goals are aligned. 

Nick Appleyard: We quickly realized that there is a lot of symmetry between our two organizations, so we developed a memorandum to formally acknowledge this common interest and we agreed to take steps to develop this synergy.

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Healthcare in Africa is a good example of one of these overlaps between ESA and AXA. The problems of infrastructure and access to health services can be greatly reduced by using satellite technology – and our satellites are always available, everywhere, as long as you can see the sky!

What will be the main benefits for users? 

Hassan El Shabrawishi: AXA is now a key player in the healthcare sector in Africa and we’ve found that there is a big gap between what our clients would like us to provide as a service, and what we are able to offer today. To address this gap, AXA is becoming a primary healthcare provider, with the aim of building a network of primary care clinics across the continent. There are two approaches: a bricks and mortar-type solution, or by providing things like teleconsultation for immediate access to quality care. A huge issue in Africa is that the infrastructure for digital technologies is currently lacking. So we are exploring how to leverage ESA’s satellite technology to provide remote areas with Internet coverage, as well as back up for urban areas to ensure the sustainability of our service. We aim to use digital services and technologies that don’t even exist yet in western markets, such as medication delivery to homes, teleconsultations, the concept of health coaches, and more. In addition, we will provide educational programs for our staff, and harness the power of data to inform the public so they can better manage their own healthcare. ESA is showing us how its technologies could leverage much more reliable and affordable healthcare, at costs that would have been unimaginable just 10 or 20 years ago. So the benefits to millions of African customers are threefold: accessibility, affordability and quality.

On which countries will you initially focus? 

Hassan El Shabrawishi: We started this project by looking at what we call out-of-pocket expenses, which is the amount people pay for healthcare directly from their own funds. In Africa this can reach up to 90% of total health care expenditure. Nigeria and Egypt were the obvious places to launch this program, as targeting these two countries alone would cover around 400 million people. We have assembled a dedicated AXA One Health team with a pan-African focus, but we can go beyond Africa as what we are doing here is relevant to Asia, Latin America, and some countries in Southern Europe.

Nick Appleyard: The partnership will start in Egypt, as our satellites extend around the world, so any service we develop for one market can be developed for anywhere else. Wherever the partnership allows us to open up new market access, we’ll go side-by-side with AXA into those areas. 

Are you planning to work on other joint projects in future?

Nick Appleyard: I hope so! The insurance industry is a natural partner for us. We are active in areas like infrastructure monitoring and in all forms of mobility and transport – all sorts of markets where AXA also has activities. So there are many areas of possible synergy with an organization such as AXA.

Hassan El Shabrawishi: There are so many points of interest in common that the answer is almost certainly yes. We signed our memorandum of intent between AXA and ESA, which is our first step. This memorandum is intentionally very broad because there are so many projects and technologies that ESA is willing to share with us.

AXA’s overall strategy of promoting healthcare in emerging countries

Forming partnerships with public and private actors is at the core of AXA’s strategy. The Group is very keen to work closely with multilateral organizations on key topics, including health. AXA One Health initiative bases itself on the payer-to-partner principle, but doing so requires the support of an ecosystem of private, public and multilateral organizations, to achieve this aim of making healthcare more accessible for millions.

Benoit Claveranne, CEO International and New Markets, commented: “Health systems in emerging markets are at a crossroads. As insurers, we have a role to play in expanding access to care and filling the gap when needed. We must adapt to these changes and provide health solutions that are relevant to local needs.”

AXA Group's International and New Markets division dedicated a day of debate aiming at improving the lives and providing health services for people in Emerging countries. Relive the event in video:

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