Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa has been accused of stealing the concept for what is now Sasai’s Health Status Report from a former collaborator. In a report by Daily Maverick, David Rice co-founder of PocketPatient MD is accusing the Masiyiwa and Cassava of stealing what was initially an idea that they worked together on as well as defamation.
According to David Rice, he and Strive Masiyiwa have known each other since 2018. The two had been in conversation about tapping into the potential in the African eHealth market. The result of those discussions was a joint effort that was made official in the same year between PocketPatientMD and Cassava Smartech.
The potential of Africa’s eHealth market, as we are all aware, was made greater because of the coronavirus pandemic. There was (and still is) a growing need for technology-based solutions that could assist in tackling COVID-19.
Now, the collaboration that Rice says existed between his company and Cassava was made under the protection of a mutual confidentiality agreement. The document was apparently insisted upon by Cassava.
With all this in place, David Rice was shocked to see Cassava Smartech release a product strikingly similar to the one they had presented. What followed was a cease and desist order sent to Cassava as well as letters to African Union Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).
This situation was compounded by allegations that Cassava put this idea forward to a group of funders who were loosely associated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation declined to comment but it is understood that neither of the two got any financial backing from it.
David Rice also claims that Strive Masiyiwa defamed him and his company in the upper floors of the African Union. The defamatory statement was denying that Cassava and PocketPaitentMD had ever worked together.
All of these allegations were denied by Cassava’s legal team which said that Rice’s claims that his company was working with Cassava were false.
On the part of the confidentiality agreement, Cassava’s legal team said they provided PocketPatientMD with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) but the agreement was never concluded.
In the same report by Daily Maverick David Rice produced the NDA but it was signed by him but not by Cassava
On Cassava’s end, there were no discussions that led to any kind of partnership. Contrary to David Rice’s claims it was he who approached Cassava in 2019 looking for funding for his startup. Whatever communication that existed between them ended in November of 2019.
Cassava CEO Darlington Mandivenga said that ASMP was built by a group called Vaya Africa which is not a Cassava subsidiary. The platform was a gift from Masiyiwa to the African Union under his philanthropic activities.
“We are the biggest builders of digital platforms in Africa and we have numerous third-party platforms from well-established vendors in the US and China. We don’t need to go to a small team with no IP and no skills for something like this,”Darlington Mandivenga, CEO Cassava
The defamation claim was also denied. According to the information that Cassava has in their possession they think that Rice and his associates are trying to extort money from Masiyiwa and Cassava
David Rice said that he never approached Cassava for funding. He also said that the talks between him and Cassava lasted for far longer than what Cassava’s legal team has outlined.
Rice said that there is truth to his claim of defamation because he and other members of the Special Envoy’s Alliance received the defamatory emails. He also believes that they were removed from the Alliance after they raised the potential conflict of interests that arose.