If there is one thing the recent pandemic has revealed, it’s that Nigeria’s healthcare sector is in dire need of an intervention. The healthcare sector’s challenges and opportunities are well documented. However, it has been largely ignored by the government, despite its significance to economic growth and wealth creation.
The recent coronavirus pandemic has brought this matter to the fore, with government scrambling to curtail an escalating situation. There are challenges with logistics, technology, hospitals, and quarantine centers, finding enough healthcare workers, and more importantly, carrying out testing at a scale. The shortcomings of the government are laid bare for all to see.
Conversely, there have been several private-sector innovators, albeit on a small scale, doing their bit to solve the myriad of challenges facing the industry. These are young and energetic disruptive innovators leveraging on technology to improve healthcare delivery in the country.
On this week’s Founders Profile, we profile some of these young innovators and entrepreneurs who are disrupting the health care sector in Nigeria. Despite being upstarts, they are perhaps laying the foundation for what a vibrant private sector driven health care sector should be. All that is required is adequate funding and government support via market-friendly policies.
Michael Osahon- Founder, Meditell
If you are the kind of person who forgets to take medications when due, then Meditell is for you.
Meditell is a robust, user-friendly platform which schedules reminders for patients and their caregivers, to ensure adherence to medication schedules. By using mobile phones. ‘Meditext’ and ‘Medicall’ set reminders for drug administration.
Straight out of NYSC, where he served as a secondary school teacher in Ijebu-Ode, Michael Osahon founded Meditell. He is a computer science graduate from Covenant University. Besides Meditell, Osahon has employed his product development skills to develop business applications for Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers and GTBank.
Among other things, he is a Senior Software Engineer with Ernst and Young.
Vivian Nwakah- Founder/CEO, Medsaf
Many people have died from consuming fake or substandard drugs. But how do medical institutions decipher the right sources for quality medications at fair prices?
Medsaf aims to give hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies access to high-quality medication from manufacturers at affordable costs, thereby reducing incidences of complications arising from fake or substandard drugs administered to patients. It is supposed to serve as a one-stop-shop for safe medications in Africa, helping health facilities to buy authentic drugs with ease.
At that point, Vivian decided that a solution was needed. There had to be a way to ensure that health facilities managed their supplied inventories and purchased products from reputable global sources and production companies.
CEO and founder of Medsaf, Vivian Nwakah, was born and raised in the United States of America, though she schooled in other countries including Paris and China. She once recounted how she conceived the idea of Medsaf after losing her friend to fake medications during a 3-month internship in Nigeria.
“It was a moment of great sadness but I was also filled with shame. I was coming from the U.S where I was born and raised, and I had worked in healthcare agencies. There, it was about keeping elderly patients, even in their 80s and 90s alive with quality healthcare, but here, someone my age had died due to fake malaria pill,” she recalled.
Oddly, from her research, she got to understand that global manufacturers were afraid of sending their products to Nigeria because they did not want their brands compromised by counterfeits. This reluctance on their part gave counterfeit producers a lot of room to operate.
Vivian stayed back after her internship, determined to solve this problem. She quit her job in 2016 and pooled her savings. In January 2017, Medsaf was launched.
Medsaf stands as a middleman, verifying producers and manufacturers before listing their medications, and also verifying health facilities before allowing them to make any purchase. This ensures protection from both ends, leaving the end consumer better for it.
Olaniyi Ralph- Founder GenRx
Olaniyi Ralph was still a 400 level pharmacy student at the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2014 when he had an epiphany. Having learned the devastating results of wrong drug combinations, interactions, and consumption of expired drugs, he designed an app, GenRx, which had the ability to detect and alert pharmacy owners about drugs nearing their expiration dates, drugs about to be sold in overdose, and wrong drug combinations.
He went on to co-found AGC Nigeria which became the platform to launch GenRx – a POS application designed to help pharmacies and hospitals manage their drug inventories and accounts.
This all-in-one software thus improves efficiency in sales processing and safety in dispensing medications. It also automatically calculates customers’ payments and balances, keeps daily records of items sold, salespersons on duty, and manages product reorders, ensuring that they do not run out of stock.
Over time, it has been improved to manage salaries and expenditures, and generate profit and loss statements of accounts. It now possesses an in-built calculator with three memory banks that can be used during on-going transactions. It can be configured to suit any pharmacy’s needs.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Founder of Lifebank
LifeBank was started in May 2012 as One Percent Project or One Percent Blood Donation Enlightenment Foundation. The target was to end blood shortage in Nigeria by enlightening people on the importance to overcome their fears, prejudices, and myths, and donate blood for anyone in need.
In 2016, it became Lifebank, a business set up to improve access to blood transfusions in Nigeria. A personal experience during her first child-birth drove her to build this dream, so that people would no longer have to suffer complications from delayed blood donations.
Since then, Lifebank has helped deliver hundreds of thousand of pints of blood to patients in Nigeria, and has now extended to other medical products like oxygen, vaccines, and blood products.
Tubosun is a graduate fellow from the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and also a fellow with the Global Health Corps.
She had carried out millennium village projects in rural areas in Africa, under the United Nations Development Programme and Millennium Promise, and also worked briefly with Fairview Health Services in Minnesota, after graduating from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Adeloye Olanrewaju- Founder of Safermom & Babymigo
Adeloye has a Bachelor’s degree in Human physiology from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. He was observing the one-year compulsory national service in 2015 at the Ekiti State Primary Healthcare Board when he noticed a problem he had first seen during his internship.
“I realized mothers and babies weren’t getting the psychological, social, and mental support they needed. Nigeria presently contributes 13-15% of global maternal and child deaths yearly. Out of the 7.2 million birth rates recorded yearly (Unicef 2014 Estimate), we lose 260,000 newborns annually. Unfortunately, most cases are preventable when there’s increased access to basic health services,” he later explained.
Safermom was developed as a mobile service for pregnant and nursing mothers of 0-3-year old babies, to access health information and make informed health decisions. This is achieved through voice calls, mobile SMS, helplines, and a mobile app. It also helps mothers track milestones in pregnancy and nursing, including vaccination dates, and shares prevention tips, and home remedies. Mothers can also dial a short code to access vital health information, government schemes, and important announcements in their local languages, and request tricycles or ambulances.
This innovation earned Adeloye an award from Her Majesty, the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace for his works in improving mother and child health in Sub-Sahara Africa. He’s also a St Gallen Leader of Tomorrow, TEEP fellow, International Action Youth Net fellow, and Leap Africa Social Innovator fellow, among others.
In 2015, SaferMom was listed among the top 6 startups in Africa, scooping $50,000 USD in the Impact category of Facebook’s Internet.org competition.
Two years after, Adeloye launched Babymigo, a community for the new generation of young parents to find trusted information in local African contexts, get their questions answered, and connect with nearby moms and experts.
(READ MORE: Tech Roundup S02E16)
Adereti Francis- Founder Redbank
In a country where countless lives have been lost due to the non-availability of blood, the importance of Redbank can hardly be exaggerated.
Adereti Francis (Business Lead and developer) founded Redbank, a startup that connects hospitals and patients to the nearest blood banks, in 2014. He had support from co-founders, Adeyanju Toluwanimi (Operations Lead), and Ojediran Tunde (Technical Lead). The goal, they said, was to save more lives by helping Nigerians find blood fast and safely.
Francis Adereti got his first degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University and later obtained an MBA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His work experience cuts across Huawei Technologies, iQube labs, and Microsoft, among others.
This varied experience geared him towards product innovation, product management, business operations, and strategy, all of which came in handy when Redbank was founded.
Redbank has a network of blood banks and hospitals on its radar, helping patients and their families to find the needed blood types closest to their locations, within a short time. Compared to the traditional way of calling several blood banks to find a match, this is a great leap, which has saved the lives of people in emergencies such as accidents, surgeries, and childbirth.
To ensure that all levels of Nigerians are catered to, they have phone lines and SMS services so that people who do not have access to the internet can still reach them.
Talk about a problem that solves it all!
Redbank also harmonised the databases of hospitals and health clinics, especially those whose records are still in the ‘paper era.’
The target is to build a donor database so that proper records can prevent people from donating when they are not eligible to make donations, and save their lives with these ‘electronic reminders.’ It also has outreaches on several media to recruit more donors and ensure an adequate supply of all blood groups.
Charles Onu- Founder, Ubenwa
If you were told that a baby’s cries could communicate as clearly as words, your first reaction might have been, “Impossible!” but not anymore.
Ubenwa, literally translated, means baby’s cry in Igbo language. It is an application that captures a baby’s cry, translates it and makes a prognosis on what the problem could be. The result could be as simple as hunger, sleep, pain, or an early symptom of a life-long disability such as cerebral palsy, deafness, and paralysis. Even birth asphyxia, which is the third-highest cause of infant mortality, can be detected early enough to prevent any damage to the child’s brain or infant death.
Ultimately, the aim is to provide optimal care for babies and address early health challenges within the first two years of a child’s life. But how accurate can this be?
According to Onu, the Artificial Intelligence solution app has achieved over 95% prediction accuracy in trials with nearly 1,400 pre-recorded baby cries.
This innovation has won several awards, including the WHO Top 30 Africa Health Innovators in March 2019.
Charles has a Bachelor’s degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering, and MSc and Ph.D. in Computer Science – Machine Learning from McGill University. He is a fellow of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation.
(READ MORE: TechRoundUp Season 2 Episode 15)
Ola Orekunrin Brown- Founder, Flying Doctors Nigeria
Ola Orekunrin, is a medical doctor and helicopter pilot. She started the Flying Doctors Nigeria (FDN) as a young 21-year-old graduate.
Just like Nwakah’s Medsafe, FDN was spurred by personal experience, when Ola lost her younger sister due to a delay in finding an air ambulance service in Nigeria. Similarly, Ola was born and bred out of the shores of Nigeria, in the United Kindom to be precise, though she occasionally visited relatives in the country.
FDN is a medical emergency service that specialises in making air ambulance services, medico-logistics services, remote site medical solutions services, medical infrastructural development, and medical training services available in critical areas of need.
Flying Doctors is the first ambulance company in West Africa and boasts of 20 charter aircraft in good condition, with services that are cheaper than ground ambulance services.
Ola has, since then, taken certificate courses in Accounting and Economics at IESE and the University of Michigan respectively, to help her better manage the FDN. She has also obtained an MSc in Finance and Economic Policy.
Hote: Are there any notable names we may have missed? Kindly send an email to the author or to [email protected] Also feel free to drop a comment.
EFG Hermes kicks off second Virtual Investor Conference
EFG Hermes has kicked off the second edition of its Virtual Investor Conference.
Sequel to the success recorded in the first virtual conference in June, 2020, the 2nd EFG Hermes Virtual Investor Conference has been inaugurated on September 23, 2020 and set to run through to October 1, 2020, with an even greater and more diverse turnout in view.
At least 157 companies from 25 countries around the world, with more than 650 institutional investors from 240 global institutions managing assets in excess of USD 17 trillion are expected. The information is contained in a press release and seen by Nairametrics was signed by Bola Adekoya-Olukuewu (EFG, Media Executive).
Recall that earlier in June 2020, EFG Hermes hosted its first Virtual Investor Conference. The highlight of the first meeting includes; recording more than 6,500 meetings, bringing together executives from 72 companies from 14 countries with 480 institutional investors representing 160 institutions managing assets in excess of USD 15 trillion.
Commenting on the expectations of the event, the Group Chief Executive Officer of EFG Hermes Holding, Karim Awad said, “This second iteration of our highly successful Virtual Investor Conference features an even larger and more diverse group of participants as FEM markets begin to open up after being roiled by the COVID-19 crisis. With access to some of the most attractive investment opportunities across vital sectors in FEM markets, institutional investors from around the world will participate in a platform where they’ll be gaining key macroeconomic and industry insights that will shape the way forward through the unprecedented circumstances global markets are facing.”
“Having ridden out the worst of the initial economic storm, investors are looking to us for insights on the way forward for FEMs. With equity and debt flows on their way to recovery, investor appetite for the markets remains. In saying this, stimulus measures that prevented financial meltdowns at the start of the crisis could set markets up to face debt-accumulation challenges. At the same time, they’re bracing for the ever-present threat of a second wave of a virus that saw governments and central banks up spending and slashes interest rates in the face of throttled consumer demand and investment. Our aim with the Virtual Investor Conference is to provide participants with pertinent and first-hand insights from the international players moving markets and direct investment into these compelling FEM economies,” said Mohamed Ebeid, co-CEO of the Investment Bank at EFG Hermes.
About EFG Hermes
EFG Hermes has a presence in twelve countries across four continents of the world with over 35 years of successful operation. The firm started in Egypt and has grown to become a leading financial services corporation with access to emerging and frontier markets. It provides a wide range of financial services that include investment banking, asset management, securities brokerage, research, and private equity to the entire MENA region.
In 2015, EFG Hermes launched the NBFI Platform. EFG Hermes Finance, overlooks activities in the non-banking finance field through leasing, microfinance, Fintech, factoring, mortgage, insurance and e-payments. This falls in line with the Firm’s strategy to focus on two main pillars: product diversification and geographic expansion into non-MENA markets, which has seen the Firm, establish a physical presence in Pakistan, Kenya, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry is tough work – Ugo Monye
Ugo Monye takes us through his journey to becoming one of the most popular fashion brands in Nigeria.
With the large number of business names being registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on a monthly basis, it is easy to assume that starting and scaling a business in Nigeria is a piece of cake. In reality, however, it is a completely different story.
Even after surviving the first few years, scaling for expansion can be a hard nut to crack, particularly in an industry that is still unstructured.
Ugochukwu Monye, Founder and Creative Director, Ugo Monye Fashion Company was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour, and shared some challenges of scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry.
He observed that one challenge entrepreneurs have to face in the industry while trying to upscale is the shortage of manpower.
“No one wants to work for anybody. People don’t want to be part of another person’s success story, because everyone feels they can as well float whatever it is you are doing. This is part of the reasons the industry lacks structure, and still not fully developed,” he noted.
Even when one employs a staff, they only work a short while before they start contemplating how to leave and replicate your business. In my line of business, the result is many small fashion businesses with few (if any) outstanding brands.
There is much room for specialization across the value chain, but people cannot specialize, “because of the absence of a structure,” Ugo added.
Discovering Ugo Monye
Ugo grew up with a mother who owned a fashion business, so he picked interest in fashion early enough. However, he did not wish to pursue this line, as the realities at the time did not present the fashion industry as a mouth-watering alternative to other well-known professional lines.
“At that time, there was no glory in being a tailor or a fine artist,” he explained.
His parents wanted him to read Fine and Applied Art in the UK, and hone his skills in Fine Arts, but he refused, opting instead for a course in Business Administration so that he could go into importation business upon graduation. Exposure and knowledge soon showed him that often, a person’s passion and calling had to cross paths.
He started coming up with creative designs and clothing ideas, drawing inspiration from the things around him in the university.
One holiday, Ugo went home and decided it was time to bring the ideas to reality. He linked up with a couple of tailors that worked with his mother, and using some of the old machines still available in the house, they brought the first Ugo Monye clothing designs to life.
At that time, the business operated with the name CIUCI (a word which he derived from the initial letters of his five siblings), later changing to Ugo Modern Design, before he decided to just stick with his name, Ugo Monye.
He continued with his designs through his university days, till the end of his one-year mandatory service – NYSC, after which he got a job with a Strategic Consulting company. It only took a short while before Ugo realized that, as much as he was earning more than some of his peers at the time, there was no sense of fulfillment in what he did. He turned in his resignation and decided to go all-in on fashion designing. He attended a fashion school to hone his skills further.
All hands on deck
The fashion industry is not an easy place to start, and anyone starting out in the space must be ready to play all the required roles. In this industry, Ugo became a designer, tailor, marketer, brand promoter, and every possible role as he strove to get things rolling.
“It is not just easy to get people to do these things, because the industry has not attained a structural level, where a person will decide right from school, that he wants to work as a designer with this company, as we see in other sectors,”
There is also the tendency for people to feel that they don’t have a serious job because they are tailors, and sometimes feel ashamed to identify as one. Things are gradually changing as people are beginning to identify with the industry, and this brings hope for more growth in the sector.
Monetizing a fashion company takes different forms, designing, clothes making, selling, and even consulting.
Ugo says that as a brand, the Ugo Monye brand is more about details, “There has to be that touch of finesse in the finishing, and in fact, we pay more attention to the parts of the clothes that people do not see. This is what stands you out from others.”
A dream still in the process
Though Ugo Monye has become a brand to be reckoned with among celebrities and notable personalities in the last decade, Ugo says that his dreams for the brand are still yet to be actualised. He sees his brand becoming a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, a brand that every fashion enthusiast would want to be identified with as the industry takes shape.
“I am not yet wowed by anything I have experienced so far. There are quite a lot of achievements I have made with the brand, but it is still not up to what I dreamed of. There’s no short cut to anywhere that is worth going to,” Ugo concluded.
We started PiggyVest to digitize ‘wooden box’ saving method – Odunayo Eweniyi, Co-Founder
Inspired by the local wooden box piggy bank, the idea for PiggyVest was birthed.
The Financial Service sector has rapidly evolved in the last decade; with several viable startups springing up with innovations, most people never thought was possible. One of the notable startups, currently redefining the FinTech industry is PiggyVest.
PiggyVest is the first online ‘savings and investment’ app in West Africa, with one mission to give everyone the power to better manage and grow their own finance.
For a company started by six young graduates, their success story is truly inspirational
Today, Nairametrics profiles one of the brains behind this ethical startup company – Odunayo Eweniyi
Born in Oyo state, the 27-year-old Odunayo spent her early years invested in reading books. She excelled with ease in all subjects at her primary and secondary schools. A feat not surprising, as she is daughter to two professor parents.
Odunayo recalls that even though she wished to study Medicine and Surgery, she did not consider herself empathetic enough to thrive in the profession. She went on to study Computer Engineering at the prestigious Covenant University, graduating top of her class in 2013.
Finding her Co-Founders
As an undergraduate, Odunayo had already taken an interest in Coding and Artificial Intelligence and expected to take further studies in it. However, this did not happen immediately, as she started with job-hunting after graduation.
“The first thing that happened to me was that I went for a job interview, and I was asked to quote a salary and I did. When the offer would come back, the salary they offered was 80% lower than what I expected, so I rejected it,” she recalled.
Subsequently, she teamed up with a couple of friends from her university days, and they came up with the idea of PushCV. Recounting the decision to team up with them, Odunayo says,
“We all were amazing engineers in school, Somto once built a miniature airplane, so I was pretty confident that a joint venture with them would produce amazing results.”
The other team members were already working on a discount card startup called Parolz, and she joined them to work on this for some months, while simultaneously still jobhunting with Oluwafemi, and Somto was working on something called CV Flash, to help people who couldn’t write CVs properly or did so with terrible English.
Odunayo became a Co-founder at CVFlash, helping to write the CVs for clients. She was also writing for TechCabal, Zikoko, and later worked as Editor of TechPoint Africa. All of the income from these jobs kept her going, and was also being channeled into getting the startup off the ground.
Soon enough, PushCV came to the forefront of their interests, when clients started requesting that they help them ‘push’ their CVs to employers. The friends decided to collapse Parolz, and concentrate their energies on the startup raving with the most attention from users.
To differentiate PushCV from others, they started pre-screening candidates, so that only the best candidates would be sent to employers. Their activities attracted attention, and by August 2014, they got their first investment from Olumide Soyombo’s Leadpath Nigeria – an office space in Yaba, and a cheque for $25,000.
How Piggybank was conceived
By the end of December 2015, the team came across a tweet from a lady, about how she had saved N365,000 by putting N1000 in a wooden piggy bank daily. They decided then, that finding a way to digitize the concept would help salary earners save towards their financial goals.
They launched Piggybank.ng on the 7th of January 2016, as a ‘savings-only’ platform, and the fully tested version was ready for public use by April 2016. Gradually, the brand grew by user-recommendations and testimonials. These free adverts were a testament to the team, that they were helping with a real need in our society.
Three years later, in April 2019, they rebranded to PiggyVest, and started offering direct investment opportunities to users, allowing them to combine ‘discipline plus flexibility to grow their savings and investments.’
Users can now use the Quarterly savings options, save towards financial targets, or lock funds away. They can also take advantage of investment opportunities on the platform. The company currently serves 350,000 users, helping them save and invest “a combine billions of Naira every month, that they would probably be tempted to badly spend.”
Not a roller-coaster experience
About her several experiences as co-founder, Odunayo said;
“The journey was full of self-doubt, and it took a toll on my self-esteem. The first thing I learnt was that I had to be adaptable, people don’t give you money then use your own. For the first two years of running the company, I had to work a side job, with the entire proceeds invested into running the start-up.”
The team was made up of six-persons at start-up, although only three people are listed as Co-Founders – Odunayo Eweniyi, Joshua Chibueze, and Somto Ifezue. Each person on the team had their specialty and strength, so it was easy to assign responsibilities. There was no accountant in the team, so they managed their finances themselves, noting that there were months, when they could not even pay themselves.
Further education, honours, and recognitions
Odunayo got certified in Full Stack Web Development (Computer Software Engineering) in 2018, as well as an online certification from the Harvard Business School. Odunayo is also CISCO certified. The Oyo-born tech founder says that she has intentions of furthering her education. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is currently undergoing a Master degree in Finance (banking) at the SOAS University of London
“I draw inspiration from my family. They believe in me so much, that it is hard for me not to believe in myself.” she said in an interview.
In 2019, Odunayo Eweniyi was named one of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 – Technology, and one of 30 Quartz Africa Innovators. In the same year, she was named SME Entrepreneur of the Year– West Africa, by The Asian Banker’s Wealth and Society, and is listed on Forbes Africa list of 20 New Wealth Creators in Africa 2019.
She sits on boards like the Advisory board of TrainFuture in Switzerland, the Gender Lens Acceleration Best Practices Initiative – a collaborative effort of Village Capital US, and the International Finance Corporation’s, Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (IFC-WeFi).