As a director of The Medical Concierge Group and CFO of its Rocket Health division, Fiona Nuwamanya FCCA – together with five doctors – is profoundly changing the way healthcare is delivered in East Africa.
The Medical Concierge Group is a digital health enterprise based in Kampala, Uganda. Its Rocket Health services are delivered through: a 24/7 telemedicine contact centre staffed with doctors; mobile laboratory services; and medicine delivery to urban and remote populations across the country, to the comfort of their own homes. These services are paid for by leading global and regional medical insurers, subscriptions, pay as-as-you-go and grant partnerships. Patients can access the services via various online platforms.
‘Initially, when we explained to people what telemedicine was, many would stare blankly; every explanation was met with scepticism’
CFO, Rocket Health Africa
Director, the Medical Concierge Group
Director, TWAM Synergies
Finance controller, Medical Access Uganda
Senior accountant, Medical Access Uganda
Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, and around two-thirds of its 45 million population live in rural areas with limited access to doctors and facilities across the country. The Medical Concierge Group began eight years ago as the brainchild of five Kampala-based doctors to deliver innovation in the healthcare sector.
With limited ﬁnancing but a big vision, they hired Nuwamanya as the senior ﬁnance executive to help them grow the company from a small startup to what is now one of the fastest-growing privately owned healthcare companies in the country, and a telehealth pioneer in East Africa.
Ahead of its time
While the company was way ahead of its time, particularly in East Africa, the impact of the Covid pandemic on its rapid growth cannot be underestimated.
‘Initially, when we explained to people what telemedicine was, many would stare blankly; every explanation was met with scepticism’ Nuwamanya says. 'It took a global pandemic for telemedicine to truly show its value in Uganda.
'Since Covid, we no longer have to explain the concept, and this year alone we’ve seen an unprecedented three-digit percentage growth in gross revenues, gross operating proﬁts and users of our services.’
Looking back six years, Nuwamanya says it was the bigger sense of achievement that drew her to the job of building the finance function from scratch.
‘When they explained the business concept to me, I immediately felt so much passion and purpose for the work that I was going to do there. I wanted to be part of building something big, and this was it,' she says.
'To show my commitment, I invested in the company, then got to support the company through its set-up phase. It’s really helped me feel that I am contributing to the health of the country.’
The reason those five doctors selected Nuwamanya for the role soon became obvious as she took charge of the task at hand. ‘As a startup, they needed all the financial systems and processes in place, and this was a good opportunity for me to test out my experience. I had to design, set-up, recruit and manage.’
Nuwamanya was no stranger to finance transformation. As a former auditor, controller and international consultant for private and public sector entities, she has an in-depth understanding of the financial systems and processes needed to control and run a business properly. She has since grown the team to include finance professionals at various levels with varying skills to support the growth of the company and take it to its next level.
In 2020, she was nominated by Uganda's leading daily paper, New Vision, as one of the country’s top 40 persons under the age of 40.
But it wasn’t her accounting acumen alone that led her to the top finance job at the Medical Concierge Group; it was also a long-standing passion for medicine.
As a young student in Kampala, Nuwamanya had first envisioned a life as a doctor. As she entered high school, however, her interest in medicine was overshadowed by her talent for finance. ‘While my dream was to be in medicine, I soon found out that I was much stronger in math than in biology.’
Nuwamanya graduated with a degree in business statistics. While completing her ACCA Qualification, she started her career as an auditor with EY.
'I feel an overwhelming sense of purpose knowing I’m part of a group that is changing our country'
‘ACCA connections are really good for business and career development. Take advantage of your professional network, which when you are part of ACCA can be anywhere in the world. My professional opinion is valued wherever I’ve worked, and this is because of my ACCA training.’
In a startup like Rocket Health, finance professionals need to be agile, moving very quickly to keep up with regulations, the business landscape and industry, and ultimately being a backbone to support implementation of business strategy.’
‘As members of the accounting profession, we need to provide the time to mentor the younger generations who will hold the fort after us.’
‘I was quite keen on getting my foot into the accounting profession,’ she says, ‘and I realised that the ACCA Qualification could take me anywhere in the world.’
Yet her passion for the world of medicine remained. On leaving EY, she decided to take on a more operational role and joined a medical supply chain organisation that is one of the biggest suppliers of HIV drugs in Uganda.
‘I worked there as a senior accountant and then rose through the ranks to financial controller,’ she says. She soon moved into a more strategic role, leading the accounting team and supporting management in making critical business decisions.
To date, she has worked in over 15 countries for health organisations such as the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the vaccine alliance Gavi.
She is also passionate about mentoring young finance professionals. ‘It’s something I feel is very important for senior finance professionals to do, and in the ACCA network there are plenty of opportunities to provide that extra support for younger people entering the profession.’
She has also given her time to various mentorship programmes, including The 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation, the Zimba Women Mentorship Program and the 101 2moro Alive project supported by the Rotary Club of Acacia Sunset in Kampala.
Nuwamanya continues to be fascinated by medical terms and the intricacies of healthcare. The Medical Concierge Group role gives her what she has always craved. ‘When thinking about the role of telehealth now in a country like Uganda, I feel an overwhelming sense of purpose knowing that I’m part of a team that is creating something in health care that is changing our country.’