Project Oxygen

This Entry has been submitted.

Project Oxygen: Ensuring access to oxygen across the nation

Siaya County, KenyaRuhengeri, Rwanda
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The lack of oxygen supply contributes significantly to mortality rates throughout Africa, and adverse maternal and child health. Project Oxygen creates a self-sustaining ecosystem of entrepreneurs with the ability to sell & distribute affordable medical oxygen to rural hospitals in Kenya and Rwanda.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we can empower rural local communities to make a living out of decreasing infant mortality and increasing maternal health?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Access to medical oxygen in East Africa is erratic and expensive, particularly in rural hospitals. In a recent study, only 43.8% of health facilities in SSA have oxygen available. District hospitals frequently exhaust their oxygen supply due to lack of funds and difficulty transporting oxygen from plants, while oxygen concentrators need a constant supply of power and are difficult to maintain. Many patients do not receive the oxygen they need.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution expands on the work of the tri-sector Siaya Oxygen Plant by creating cylinder depots at Kisumu and Migori that would allow expansion of the oxygen supply chain from the Siaya Oxygen Plant into other regions. The surplus can be sold to allow hospitals outside the region to purchase oxygen at reduced rate, reduce transportation costs by building local supply chains, allow revenue generation to cover plant maintenance/ staff salaries and provide employment for the communities the plants serve. Additionally, a training program will also be created to educate health practitioners on best practices to reduce oxygen wastage. The total population to be impacted and served by the hospitals in these regions is at least 5 million people.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Currently, our program provides a privately run oxygen plant that fills cylinders located on the grounds of a local public hospital in rural Kenya. The Oxygen plant provides all required oxygen for host hospital and surplus oxygen is sold at an affordable cost to surrounding hospitals. We would now like to expand this model as its proven success. 1. Plant equipment was donated by the GE Foundation. 2. Plant land was donated by the public hospital. 3. Plant governance committee includes local ministry of health officials, Siaya Hospital officials, and private representatives 4. Hewa Tele manages daily oxygen plant operations. 5. After the program ends, the private entity Hewa Tele will still exist and will continue to run the plant.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In Kenya, our pilot employ 6 staff, has 19 customers, and the entrepreneurs have brought in 458,549 KES between November 2014 and March 2015. While in Rwanda there are two staff, three customers, and brought in 2,665,500 RWF between Dec 2014 and March 31. In Kenya, the customers include public hospitals, private hospitals, and faith-based hospitals. The Kenyan program provides accessories like masks and flow meters to customers. Although there are fewer Rwandan customers, they tend to purchase higher quantities. Total impact last year can be seen as 22 rural hospitals in east Africa now have reliable access to affordable medical oxygen. Now that we have proven success in our pilot sites, 16 other counties in Kenya have expressed interest to partake in a similarly structured PPP and have a plant in their own counties run by local entrepreneurs.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

While the Siaya Plant does have customers in other counties, the distance from the plant makes it difficult to reach more customers outside the area. We aim to increase hospital access and geographic spread without inserting significant CAPEX by creating cylinder deports that would recycle cylinders and bring Siaya oxygen to customers outside the region. This ensures environmental sustainability, lowers transportation costs, lowers cost of production of oxygen and increases market reach. With concrete local support & buy-in, we aim to expand into 16 of Kenya's counties within the next 3-5 yrs

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

This program innovatively fits the oxygen plant within a public-private partnership (PPP) framework. With a PPP, the hospital outsources technical and business operations to a private entity, and effectively outsources the greatest risk factors. This entity brings technical know-how for plant maintenance and skilled business management in order to ensure sustainability. A properly maintained plant can continue to provide oxygen for 15-20 years.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There’s a number of technologies that provide oxygen, yet none represents a perfect solution. Cylinders are the most common source of oxygen in LMICs, as they require little maintenance and oxygen. However, the high cost of filling facilities makes distribution to the periphery expensive. Pressure swing adsorption can be used to generate oxygen onsite, but are not economically feasible on a large scale ($25 000-500 000 to install). Oxygen concentrators require electricity to function and regular maintenance, which are not often done due to staff shortages.

Founding Story

The shortages of medical oxygen within healthcare settings was first brought to the GE Foundation’s attention when Dr. Bernard found that patients in hospitals across Kenya were dying as there was not enough oxygen to treat all the patients who needed it. Patients whose illnesses could be easily solved with a short treatment of oxygen were denied the treatment because procuring oxygen was too expensive for the hospitals. Oxygen was saved to be used only in extreme cases. Now, with the launch of the Siaya plant and various PPPs to expand this model across Kenya and Rwanda, access to reliable and affordable oxygen is changing.


All GE Foundation funds for each of these partners run through Assist International, who manages the program for GE Foundation (GE’s CSR Arm), including plant procurement, installation, monitoring program implementation times, keeping an eye on finances, and plant maintenance follow-up. The partners on the ground include: Kenya's Hewa Tele is the private entity set up by the Center for Public Health and Development (founded by Dr. Bernard Olayo) and is partnered with the Siaya County Ministry of Health; Rwanda's Total Oxygen Solutions is the private entity set up by Health Builders (led by Tyler Nelson) and is partnered with the national Ministry of Health. The plant is based at Ruhengeri Hospital. GE employees in conjunction with the Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC) are now assisting Project Oxygen in their expansion strategy—specifically exploring alternative funding opportunities.
CO-CREATION IDEA: Please offer a brief description of how you imagine a win-win partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to better serve unmet needs in health. (Hint: Please mention the underlying business model envisioned that would make such a partnership sustainable.)

We have proven success in pilot sites in Rwanda and Kenya; the operating expenses are now sustainable under the current model, and will eventually be passed over to local private entities. BI can provide pharmacokinetic expertise for our training program on best oxygen prescription practices, given its role in respiratory research. We’d also like BI to invest in CAPEX for new counties in Kenya that have expressed interest to scale-up operations. Our project will expand BI’s market access into rural Kenya and entry into Rwanda, and allow BI to obtain an understanding of the local supply and distribution chains within the region. With the launch of Nairobi-based Aesa for R&D capacity in Africa, Kenya is an optimal emerging market for collabs.

NEEDS: Based on you response above, please specify which of the following resources, operations or expertise by Boehringer Ingelheim you imagine leveraging to actualize the proposed co-creation opportunity. Please check all that apply. (Hint: while financing is often critical to scale, we are also interested in understanding what other assets or expertise could be leveraged).

Manufacturing, Public Policy Knowledge, Access to Capital.

EXPLANATION OF NEEDS: Please explain your choices in more detail.

Public Policy Knowledge: The success of local entrepreneurs is dependent on the policy landscape within a country. According to the World Bank "Doing Business" report, Kenya ranks poorly at 108/ 189 countries. Being able to navigate the public policy landscape will be crucial.
Manufacturing: Project Oxygen couples oxygen tank filling technology with a decentralized distribution network. Capacity for manufacturing innovation would be an asset.
Access to Capital: Our current pilot operations are sustainable, but we would like to scale up to other counties. Investment in CAPEX will be crucial.

OFFER: What are the main assets you may contribute in a co-creation partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim that would better serve unmet needs in health?

Access to and established trust with customers/beneficiaries, Insights into pricing and financing of health products/services, Insights into marketing, Insights into distribution, Insights into behavior change.

FOCUS AREAS: Which of the following best describes the main focus of your project? (select all that apply)

Improving the affordability of healthcare (e.g., microinsurance, reducing the economic cost of care), Increasing physical access to healthcare to people with restricted mobility or restricted access (senior people, people with disability, remote or difficult areas, etc.), Remote care solutions for health management, treatment, and diagnosis.

Please share what your organisation and Boehringer Ingelheim will Co-Create together
Please specify what your Co-Creation will result in:

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Please provide a 1-2 sentence summary of your Co-Creation idea
How does this project link to the core mission of your organisation?
Beyond social impact, how does this project link to Boehringer Ingelheim’s core business?
What are the specific inputs and actions that each side will contribute to this Co-Creation idea based on each of your unique competencies and experiences?
Please describe the potential revenue model for this Co-Creation idea.
What possible risks or challenges do you foresee?
Is there anything else you would like to share about your Co-Creation idea?
How much input do you hope to receive from Boehringer Ingelheim?

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Besides Boehringer Ingelheim, what other types of partners might be valuable to carrying out your Co-Creation idea, and why?