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Pandemic Perspective: What The 20 Poorest And Richest Countries Spend On Health Care



Of the world’s poorest states, the Democratic Republic of the Congo spends the least per citizen on health care — $19 per person annually.

And in Sierra Leone, the highest health spender south of the Sahara, it’s over triple — $66 per capita.

That’s still just a fraction of how much the world’s wealthiest countries spend on each of their residents’ health. In the United States, the number is nearly $10,000. Half of the 20 richest countries spend at least $5,000 per person.


While experts warn that higher health spending doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes, it helps in a pandemic.

These budgets fund hospitals. They pay for doctors and cover the cost of essential medical supplies and services, like intensive care beds, medication and ventilators.

Strapped health-care budgets and weak infrastructure imperil the coronavirus response and longer-term health outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa, where the world’s poorest countries are clustered, but that’s only part of the picture. For these countries, which have already battled other outbreaks – AIDs, Ebola and tuberculosis – the playbook has always looked different.

As confirmed cases of the virus mount across developing and underdeveloped countries previously spared by the virus, disparities in testing capacity mean current caseload estimates in low-resource countries likely undershoot the true scope of the disease, says Dr. Andrea Tenner, who oversaw isolation units in Sierra Leone during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and is helping to develop emergency care in Tanzania.

On top of this, poor record keeping of cases and deaths is making it even harder to fully measure the scope of the virus. Facing a dearth of reliable and consolidated national numbers, many governments are flying blind as they roll out a response to the outbreak.

“The documentation [of deaths] is mostly paper,” Tenner recalls of her experience working in these countries. “It’s hard to follow.”

Also, sub-Saharan Africa, which is critically dependent on imported medicinal and pharmaceutical products, faces acute shortages in the supplies needed to treat COVID-19.

According to a report by the United Nations Commission for Africa, nearly 94 percent of Africa’s total stock of pharmaceutical products are imported. And at least 71 nations have already imposed limitations or full bans on exports of essential COVID-19 supplies, forcing many of the poorest countries into bidding wars over highly urgent, highly priced medical products.

“What’s going to happen to countries having to choose between supporting populations living with malnutrition or starvation or getting personal protective equipment for hospitals?” Tenner says. “And it’s very hard to enforce these kinds of regulations with people [who are] … eating what they earn every day. They can’t stay home for two weeks and survive.”

These inequities run deeper than any single medical resource: World Bank research in 2015 suggests that 54% of all deaths in low- and middle-income countries could have been prevented with adequate prehospital or emergency care.

Not all the challenges have to do with money or material resources. Many sub-Saharan countries must grapple with people not showing up to get medical care, especially during an infectious disease outbreak.

Peter Berman, the head of University of British Columbia’s School of Public Health, says in Ethiopia, for instance, citizens were significantly more reticent to seek medical care during the Ebola crisis. This led to an increase in mortality from other, often-preventable causes.

“People will drastically reduce their use of very important measures that are available to address other causes of disease and mortality,” Berman said. “They will stop bringing their children for treatment for respiratory infection or diarrheal diseases. They will stop getting immunized because they’re afraid to go to the clinic. They will stop getting more treatment for tuberculosis, malaria, [HIV] or other problems that are prevalent.”

Yet, even in the face of cultural factors like these, research shows that having money isn’t all it takes to keep people healthy anyway.

A 2019 report on global health security by researchers at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Economist Intelligence Unit demonstrate major vulnerabilities for countries — poor and rich — when it comes to defense against a pandemic. Despite their wealth, some of the richest countries were less prepared to deal with a pandemic than researchers expected.

Jessica Bell, one of the report’s leads, explains: Wealthier countries often didn’t prioritize health systems and disease prevention in ways tantamount to their resource power.

That’s why how a nation spends the money it does have can be more important than the dollar amount of a nation’s wealth, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic.

“Imagine that if we spend $100 per capita to build up very high-level hospitals which treat sophisticated diseases — that doesn’t do much for the general population,” Berman says. “If we spent that same money on assuring that everyone is immunized or treating these children’s infections and so on, we could see a very significant drop in mortality at the population level.”

When it comes to a pandemic, past experience helps these countries, too, says Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician and vice chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Global Health Committee. She cared for patients with Ebola in Sierra Leone and worked with HIV- infected patients and patients with tuberculosis in Ethiopia.

“You have the experience of standing up the infrastructure, having a health care workforce that has been deployed and working with those high-consequence pathogens. You have people, again, that are trained to do contact tracing, which is important,” Kuppalli says.

Poor countries are used to leveraging extremely limited resources, Kuppalli and Tenner say, which is not something countries like the U.S. are used to. Tenner, who is now helping the city of San Francisco respond to COVID-19 outbreak, described drawing from her experience in Africa: she’s begun giving patients nebulizer treatments in the open air rather than in buildings, to lower the risk that medical workers are exposed to the coronavirus.

“In the U.S., treating patients outside is not something we ever do,” Tenner says. “In Ethiopia, I worked in a clinic where we saw a lot of [tuberculosis] patients and we saw all of them outside.”

Despite these mitigating factors, Tenner is worried that the poorest countries may lose out to wealthier ones in the global grab for medical supplies — a devastating hit.

“They could be bidding against San Francisco, against New York or Seattle, or Dar es Salaam in Tanzania or Freetown [in Sierra Leone],” she says.

“When you’re in those bidding wars, the highest price wins.”


Fintech secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform



A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets. is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital. describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.

Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With, its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”

SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes as “the first and only iLender.”

He points out that since it is a lender, doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.

“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.

IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.

Image credit: Left to right: Co-founders Adam Pollack, Nick Friedman and Ian Perrex.

Since its 2016 inception, says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.

Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.

“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.

The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”

“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”

The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.” 

“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”

Buyers using win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.

SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.

The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”

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Apple’s AirPods Max fall to a new all-time low of $489 at Amazon



All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

With good looks, quality construction and great natural sound, Apple’s AirPods Max headphones tick all the right boxes, but they’re mighty expensive at $550. However, you can now pick up a pair from Amazon at $490, the lowest price we’ve seen yet. That’s still not inexpensive by any means, but it’s a substantial savings on high-end headphones that only came out seven months ago. 

Buy Apple AirPods Max (pink) at Amazon – $490 Buy Apple AirPods Max (sky blue) at Amazon – $489 Buy Apple AirPods Max (space gray) at Amazon – $489

With an Engadget review score of 84, the AirPods Max earned a spot in our list of the best headphones you can buy. They look and feel great thanks to the aluminum and metal design, breathable mesh fabric and large earcups. A rotating crown and dedicated button let you switch between ANC and and regular modes, and it’s easy to switch seamlessly between iPhones, Macs and iPads. They offer hands-free capability with Siri, and you can go for up to 20 hours between charges with both ANC and spatial sound enabled.  

AirPods Max offer a more natural sound experience than other headphones, with bass that’s not overcooked. Active noise cancellation quality is right up there, though not quite on par with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones. And they support Apple’s Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio on iPhones, iPads and Macs right now, and will come to Apple TV this fall. The main drawback is that they won’t stream Apple’s new lossless audio. 

Still, they deliver in nearly every other area and are especially useful for folks with Apple devices. $60 is a substantial discount for an Apple product this new, so if you’re interested, it would be best to act soon. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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SA agritech releases AI-enabled OmnioFarm to modernise African poultry farming



The founders of South African cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt have disappeared along with $3.6 billion (R51.4 billion) worth of Bitcoin, according to a report….

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Visa to acquire open banking platform Tink for more than $2 billion



Visa has announced plans to acquire Tink for €1.8 billion, or $2.15 billion at today’s exchange rate. Tink has been a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interface (API).

Today’s move comes a few months after Visa abandoned its acquisition of Plaid, another popular open banking startup. Originally, Visa planned to spend $5.3 billion to acquire the American startup. But the company had to call off the acquisition after running into a regulatory wall.

Tink offers a single API so that customers can connect to bank accounts from their own apps and services. For instance, you can leverage Tink’s API to access account statements, initiate payments, fetch banking information and refresh this data regularly.

While banks and financial institutions now all have to offer open banking interfaces due to EU’s Payment Services Directive PSD2, there’s no single standard. Tink integrates with 3,400 banks and financial institutions.

App developers can use the same API call to interact with bank accounts across various financial institutions. As you may have guessed, it greatly simplifies the adoption of open banking features.

300 banks and fintech startups use Tink’s API to access third-party bank information — clients include PayPal, BNP Paribas, American Express and Lydia. Overall, Tink covers 250 million bank customers across Europe.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Tink operations should continue as usual after the acquisition. Visa plans to retain the brand and management team.

According to Crunchbase data, Tink has raised over $300 million from Dawn Capital, Eurazeo, HMI Capital, Insight Partners, PayPal Ventures, Creades, Heartcore Capital and others.

“For the past ten years we have worked relentlessly to build Tink into a leading open banking platform in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of what the whole team at Tink has created together,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement. “We have built something incredible and at the same time we have only scratched the surface.”

“Joining Visa, we will be able to move faster and reach further than ever before. Visa is the perfect partner for the next stage of Tink’s journey, and we are incredibly excited about what this will bring to our employees, customers and for the future of financial services.”

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