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Interview with eHealth Africa Co-Founder, Evelyn Castle

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Evelyn Castle, Executive Director and Co-Founder, eHealth Africa is a woman with a passion for her organisation as a brand. In this eInterview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on how eHealth Africa is impacting public health  and building stronger health systems through the design and implementation of data-driven solutions across West Africa. Excerpts.

 

 

 

Tell us about yourself and your business

My name is Evelyn Castle. I was born and raised in Southern California and went to the University of California, Santa Cruz with the dream of becoming a doctor. I have always been a tech geek and became interested in using technology in health care while I was doing research on maternal and child mortality in Nigeria. In the summer of 2009, I decided to test the idea of using technology to improve healthcare and took an internship at a family care clinic in Kaduna, Nigeria. I began working with my soon-to-be business partner, Adam Thompson, on implementing an electronic medical record system at the clinic to track child immunization records. After a month of working with the clinic to enter in hundreds of records, we were able to run their monthly immunization report on the computer in a few seconds instead of spending days tallying the log books like they had to do in the past. We saw what a huge impact a simple technology tool could have on improving health care – and from that moment, eHealth Africa (eHA) was born!

 

Since 2009, eHA has grown into a leader in West Africa for electronic health (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) solutions. Our mission is to build stronger health systems through the design and implementation of data-driven solutions that respond to local needs and provide underserved communities with tools to lead healthier lives. Based in Africa, we establish new standards in health delivery and emergency response through the integration of information, technology, and logistics.

 

 

How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?

We were able to raise about $25,000 in donations through competitions in the US and from people who supported our idea. Additionally, we invested about $30,000 of our own funds towards the start up of the company. With these start up funds, we were able to purchase flights to Nigeria,  the initial technology equipment we needed to get set-up, and support ourselves in Nigeria for the first 6 months until we got our first paying contract.

 

 

What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?

The major challenges we face in running our business are:

  • Difficulty in securing long-term funding for projects
    • Due to the “emergency” nature of many public health challenges in Nigeria, donor agencies tend to only give 1 year contracts. This makes it difficult for the organization to plan and scale because we have a short time to implement and future funding is uncertain.

 

  • Infrastructure and running costs are high
    • Power, internet, and equipment costs are high in Nigeria which makes it hard for us to do business at a low cost. We have tried to reduce some of these costs by investing in solar systems and purchasing equipment in bulk.

 

  • Lack of adequate talent in the locations we work
    • The technology scene is thriving in Lagos. However, it is very difficult to get people from that area to agree to move up to the North, which is where we need our staff based. Additionally, we work in some insecure areas in the North East and many people do not want to work in those areas.

 

 

Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?

In 5 years, we see eHA having transitioned away from 100% donor funded projects to a more sustainable model where we provide people with high quality health services for a reasonable cost. This will allow more people to benefit from our work and provide the organization with longer-term initiatives.

 

Two areas that we are working on are:

  • Providing high-quality primary and secondary care through eHA developed and run health facilities. There is no reason for people to die because they can’t access basic primary care at a local clinic. eHA opened its first primary health clinic in Kano, Nigeria in July 2018 and our goal is to provide affordable and quality healthcare across Nigeria.

 

  • Providing health logistics services to government in order to ensure the public has access to vital health commodities, like vaccines and key medicines. Government should not be running their own supply chain. We believe that by outsourcing this task, we can increase the availability of drugs and health commodities across the country.

 

 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?

Focus on providing quality and you will immediately stand out from all other businesses. Quality is the most important factor to retaining clients and expanding.

 

 

How is your business participating to the development of Africa?

I believe that Africa will not see its desired economic development until the general health of the population is improved.  A one-year improvement in a population’s life expectancy is associated with a 4% increase in output. (Bloom et al., 2004). Reducing health inequality by 1% per year could increase a country’s annual rate of GDP growth by 0.15%. This makes reducing health inequity by targeting the poorest children a very strong policy alternative for improving economic growth. (Grimm, 2010). eHA strives to play a major role in improving access to quality and affordable health care for underserved communities in Africa.

Last year, we vaccinated 78,000 children against Polio, and delivered over 9 million vaccination goods to health facilities across Nigeria. We’re excited about what we’ve achieved and optimistic that we can continue improve the quality of our delivery.

Over the years, our work covering health delivery, public health emergencies, disease surveillance, laboratory work, and nutrition support has contributed to improved health across West Africa. Check out our 2017 annual impact report to learn more about how we’re changing health care!

Any links to VDD?

success story: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59c4f88bd7bdce1454815703/t/5b5886bf03ce64ffc9167d1a/1532528320996/VDD.pdf

project case study: https://www.ehealthafrica.org/vdd

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Eric Acquah: The Face Behind The First AgriTech Drone Company In Africa

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AcquaMeyer Drone Tech is an AgriTech company based in Accra, Ghana which is using technological advancement in providing total crop pest nutrition management services in Ghana and beyond. A team made up of German trained pilots and technicians, international Entomologist, Plant Nutritionists with lots of experience in the agricultural ecosystem. In this e-Interview, Eric Acquah, Founder/CEO at Acquahmeyer Drone Tech speaks with Alaba Ayinuola on how his passion for the development of Africa drove him to start his company which is the first AgriTech Drone Company in Africa putting smiles in the facings of African farmers and contributing to the development of Agriculture in Africa. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about AcquaMeyer Drone Tech and the role you play?

Eric: Plant protection products bring their own challenges. Their residues on the crops often create trade-barriers towards potential buyers in foreign countries. Exposure to the products present health risks to the farmers. Toxic and chronic effects to the environment are well known and a concern not only to environmentalists but also to governments and the general public. While farmers can not produce a marketable crop without plant protection products, this is why we started our company.

The company was founded in 2017 as the first AgriTech company using drone technology to bring technological advancement in agriculture as well as solving the plant protection issues in Africa.

The focus was to help the smallholder farmers increase productivity through precision agriculture. We design and manufacture drones for a specific problem. Currently we have the spraying drones, that is used to apply agrochemicals and the bird scaring drone that repels birds that feeds on crops. We also have drones with multispectral sensors for crop and soil analysis.

I am the founder and CEO of the company.  As a trained pilot and an aviation professional in Germany, I had to let go my career and move back to Africa to help make agriculture, which is the backbone of our economy better.

 

Alaba: What was your startup fund and how were you able to raise it?

Eric: My initial startup capital was over 250,000 Euros. And this was money my wife and I have saved over the years, working in our various carriers. I always believe in investing in what you believe. Many times its difficult to raise money for startups because for every startup there are try and errors, mistakes and corrections which investors usually don’t want to be a part of.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Eric: Starting up something new always comes with challenges. Africans are naturally slow to change, we need time to accept and switch to new ways of doing things. Unfortunately for startups, just after you have spend your initial capital to get people to accept your product or service, you get competition coming in from all angels.

Every startup business like a baby needs more attention. We have to work 10 to 15hrs everyday plus weekends and holidays.

Our motivation is that our services are putting smiles on the faces of the farmers and we can directly feel our impact in the sector. We see an increase in youth participation in Agriculture and we want to work the more to increase this movement.

 

Alaba: What is the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Eric: Our focus is to be the biggest Agriculture drone company in Africa, ensuring best practices when it comes to plant protection application. We hope to achieve this by making strategic partnerships and collaborations. We also strive to be the best in service line, staying on top of our competition at anytime.

 

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of the agricultural ecosystem in Ghana and Africa?

Eric: Many years ago, food stuffs from Africa filled discount shops in Europe but they were banned because they did not meet the Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) levels set for the European market due to issues of plant protection application. Our drone reduces the pesticides that farmers apply, achieving a better result due to precision and efficiency. We are helping to make this food stuff exportable, giving farmers better price for their produce.

Also, Africa has a larger youth population and we are using our technology to make agriculture attractive for them.

Alaba: As a startup what are the key CSR focus areas and projects initiated at your company?

Eric: Our key CSR focus is to train and provide employment for the youth. We plan to train and employ 500 people by the end of 2019 to be drone pilots, pilot assistant, drone technicians and agronomist.

 

Alaba: How is the government policies supporting startups and entrepreneurs in Ghana?

Eric: Unfortunately, our Government do not support their own. Politicians come and change policies every time when there is a change in Government. There are a lot of startups doing great things and they need support to scale but there is none from the Government.

 

Alaba: Your advice for potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.

Eric: Africa has a lot of potential and its a very good place to invest if you have the patient. But entrepreneurship is not for the weak hearted. It is very difficult and every successful entrepreneur sacrifices a lot and also gives not just a 100% but 300%.

 

Alaba: How does it feel to be an African entrepreneur?

Eric: For this, I would say am very grateful to be part of the movement changing Africa and making it a better place for our future generation.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Eric: I watch movies and listen to motivational speeches to relax. I also love playing basketball and swimming. For books I read John Grisham, don’t really know why but he is my best writer of all time. Aside that I read biographies of successful businessmen.

 

 

Short Bio:

Born and raised in Ghana, Eric Acquah left Africa to Europe to achieve his life long dream of becoming a pilot. He studied in 3 pilot schools across Europe to attain his pilot licence and studied further to be an Aircraft sales executive. He has lots of experience working in the Aviation industry. He is very passionate about making Africa a better place, and that drove him to start his company that is helping to develop Agriculture in Africa.

To know More, Click To Visit: AcquaMeyer Drone Tech

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CodeLn Is Reducing The Rate Of Unemployment Of Software Developers In Africa – Elohor Thomas

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Elohor Thomas, CEO and Co-founder of CodeLn

There is no doubt that the tech hiring process is broken and there is not one single way of solving this problem across the world. In Africa, CodeLn is a trusted tech recruitment platform for validating and verifying skills of software developers enabling work place fit and reducing on-boarding cost. In this e-Interview, Elohor Thomas the CEO and Co-founder  speaks with Alaba Ayinuola, on how CodeLn is disrupting the tech hiring process in Africa with the use of technology and exposing Africa Tech Talents to the world. Guided with the vision to becoming the global go-to marketplace for verified and certified African Software Developers. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about CodeLn and the role you play?

Elohor: Codeln is an end-to-end Technical Recruitment platform offering the best approach to recruiting Software Developers by automating the entire process thereby cutting down technical recruitment time. We understand that recruiting Software Developers is a hectic and time-consuming process and if not properly conducted, the company risks having a bad hire. Finding and identifying skilled talents is quite a process and employing a wrong fit slows down technical productivity rate. We thereby make recruiting Software Developers a fast and easy process for companies. CodeLn currently operates across Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Kenya.

Our key services:

Talent Sourcing: we help companies find skilled Software Developers through our online marketplace of pre-vetted Software Developers. To ensure quality, we verify the coding skills of all candidates before we place them on our platform by testing their coding skills using a project-based approach.

Screening: validating the skills of potential employees cannot be overemphasized. Using our Testing Platform, we help verify the coding skills of Software Developers by giving them projects (workplace sample tests) to build on our online Integrated Development Environment (IDE). We check for code quality based on standards and best practices.

I am the CEO and Co-founder supported by three brilliant co-founders: Dexter Ouattara,  Dennis Ruhiu, and Philisiah Mwaluma.

 

Alaba: What was your startup fund and how were you able to raise it?

Elohor: We have raised $100,000 in funding from Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). MEST is part of Meltwater, a global media intelligence firm founded by Jorn Lyseggen. My co-founders and I participated in a one-year intensive training by MEST after which we received funding.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competitions and how are you overcoming them?

Elohor: We are solving a global problem, no doubt the tech hiring process is broken and there is not one single way of solving this problem across the world. The problem itself is a huge one to tackle but we are offering the best approach that suits our market because we have a good understanding of this market.

Yes, there are competitors addressing different parts of the value chain within and out of Africa. But we have strategically placed ourselves in the value chain in a way that we can collaborate and partner with others for mutually beneficial purposes.

 

Alaba: What is the future for  CodeLn and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Elohor: Our vision is to become the global go-to marketplace for verified and certified African Software Developers. We are not just building a business but we are building a community of skilled Tech Talents that can be outsourced to companies anywhere in the world. Africa has got Tech Talent, we are here to expose these Talents to the world.

The team is a  pan African team from Nigeria, Kenya and Ivory Coast. This is our key strength for scaling our business fast across Africa and to other parts of the world.

Also, we are creating strategic Partnerships/collaborations with other players in the value chain to achieve this.

 

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?

Elohor: We help reduce the rate of unemployment of Software Developers in Africa. We noticed that there are skilled and qualified Software Developers that are unemployed. Even though their skills are in high demand, they are not properly matched with the right jobs. We therefore help match these Software Developers to Job opportunities.

Also, our platform allows these Software Developers to create a portfolio of projects. We do this to help them improve their skills and most importantly to encourage them to use technology to solve local African problems.

 

Aaron Fu, MD at MEST Africa, Elohor Thomas, CEO and Co-founder and Dexter Ouattara, CPO and Co-founder at the TechCrunch Battlefield 2018 held in Lagos, Nigeria.

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa business ecosystem?

Elohor: I see great potential and opportunity for growth. Africa is indeed a wealthy continent with lots of untapped opportunities. Although certain resources are limited, with the right support from the government and also personal zeal from Entrepreneurs, it will be easy for businesses to grow.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Elohor: I would advise them to brace up, it is not going to be an easy ride. Being an Entrepreneur requires great resilience, it is easy to start the journey but sustaining a business is where it gets tough. But the good news is that once you get it right, your business immediately starts growing immensely. They always say Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but you never know till you start. So start fast and fail fast if need be.

For Investors, I would encourage them to start investing now in African Businesses and Startups because the prospects are high. Investing now will be a wise decision that will yield maximum benefits in the future.

 

Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?

Elohor: Firstly, my passion and purpose for existence is my driving force. I believe that God created everyone for a purpose and I would like to fulfill mine before I am gone so that I will be remembered for great impact.

Secondly,  I have mentors who motivate me. My father is my number one mentor, he raised me into believing that there is nothing I cannot do, I owe my resilient attitude to him.

Thirdly, my co-founders. They are the wheels that keep me moving in business. Their zeal always reminds me that I am not alone in this Entrepreneurial journey.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Elohor: My major hobbies are watching movies and hiking. I mostly read motivational and Tech books.

 

Short Bio:

Elohor Thomas is a native of Delta State, Nigeria. She is the CEO and Co-founder of CodeLn, an online Technical Recruitment Platform that helps Companies seamlessly recruit skilled Programmers.

She has trained over 500 people on Software Development where she noted the problem of unemployment and underemployment amongst Programmers even after they have gone through a tough Technical Training. She is now focused on connecting Programmers to employment opportunities. She believes in reshaping the tech hiring process in Africa.

A Tech Enthusiast, Mentor, and Teacher by passion.

Visit: CodeLn today!

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QualiTrace Is Africa’s Leading AgriTech Company That Uses Technology To Authenticate Agro based Products – Kenneth Nelson

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QualiTrace is an award winning traceability and anti-counterfeiting AgriTech startup company based in Accra, Ghana. That provides track and trace technology to authenticate and verify agro-based product inputs and outputs. In this e-Interview, Kenneth Nelson, the co-founder and CEO speaks with Alaba Ayinuola on how his brand is improving the livelihood of farmers and other stakeholders by empowering them to fight against fake agro input and assuring quality, using innovative technologies to trace food to the farm gates with just a click and Ghana producing innovative AgriTech Startups that equal compete globally. Excerpts.

 

Tell us about QualiTrace and the role you play?

The QualiTrace founded in 2017, has a concept built on the concept of traceability where a consumer can trace food produce to the farm gates.

QualiTrace is an Agri-Tech start-up Company that uses track and trace technology to authenticate product agro inputs (such as seeds and fertilizers)  and outputs. QualiTrace not only authenticates but also provides a clear simple means by which players in any given supply chain can trace products along the chain till the final consumer also independently verifies the source and quality of the product.

QualiTrace also has a user friendly Artificial Intelligence technology (mobile app) that helps farmers identify diseases and pest infestation on crops and recommend treatment and the best quality agro input to fight it. Simply snap a photo of the affected area of the crop area and the app will predict the pest or disease is and recommend the right agro input. We provide technological solutions to improve the livelihoods of farmers.

Our vision is to bring innovative technologies to make life healthier for consumers (farmers & consumers)

I am a founding member and CEO. But, I prefer to be seen as the leader who literally leads the way by setting examples. I put myself out there by working the operations and business development of the company to encourage my team to put in their maximum best.

 

What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

QualiTrace emerged from a social impact AgriTech competition called the Kosmos Innovation Center AgriTech challenge and won the 2017 edition with $50,000 seed investment to proof concept.

The competition was a 12 month training programme for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and dreams to make a difference in the Agriculture industry in Ghana and Africa as a whole. The programme is designed to allow individuals to form teams from the selected based on different but complimenting skills, academic backgrounds and experience with the same vision to solve a specific problem.

Winning the competition was “no walk in the park”. Twelve months training and eliminations at 3 stages before winners (team) are declared based on dedication, hard work, perseverance and “fire in the belly”. Prior to winning, our capital came from our own pockets and investing our time, energy and visions.

 

What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

The startup life and road of an entrepreneur is not for the weak. Hours of ideation, try and error, calculated risk and tears. There is no getting to the top in entrepreneurship. There is no end. When you get to a goal, you have to set another goal. You go far, so you can be strong enough to go further.

There are both internal and external challenges. Internal challenges ranges from team dynamics to raising extra funds to grow. External challenges comes with adaptation of your solution (technology) by users (farmers), people not believing it could be done, and most importantly, pressure from family tiers.

To an investor and other stakeholders in the industry, there is competition, but to me, the only competition I see is myself. Delivering and achieving more than the goals set is my competition. The focus now is to build the basic foundation of a business that will change the status quo in the agriculture industry.

Overcoming challenges in the startup and entrepreneurship world is a daily routine. It is what truly defines what Entrepreneurship is all about. What keeps me going in overcoming challenges is, I keep reminding myself “what is the purpose”.  I proud of my achievements but it doesn’t mean I settle for them. I seek growth for myself and QualiTrace. Competition is one way of saying, “can you survive”!. To be the best, you must outwork the rest and overcoming challenges clearly means committing to every part of your life to build a brand that people can relate to.

 

How does your organisation measure it’s impacts?

Fighting counterfeit agrochemicals means ensuring farmers verifying their agro inputs before purchase. We measures impacts in two main ways. Number of counterfeits detected and the number of verifications on agro inputs purchased. Ensuring quality is key to produce quality food.

 

What is the future for QualiTrace and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

The focus is to be the best quality assurance and anti-counterfeiting company in Africa. We want to see QualiTrace as a Brand name that assures quality across Africa using innovative technologies to trace food to the farm gates with just a click. One way to do that is through collaboration. It is either you collaborate or you die!

 

How is your business contributing to the development of the agricultural sector in Ghana and Africa?

QualiTrace is gradually reducing the number of fake agrochemicals brought to Africa and ensure we produce quality and safe food for international markets and using simple technologies to do so. We believe in creating a system that is transparent and will enhance food safety and security.

 

What is your view on the development of Ghana business ecosystem?

Ghana and Africa as a whole has all it needs (resources) to grow exceedingly. To become the leaders and drivers of several industries from agriculture to technology to human capital and we continue to realize that from the number of Western investors coming to Africa to do business. Ghana is producing innovative AgriTech Startups that equal compete with the rest of the world as well as other African countries.

 

What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.

Very few entrepreneurs can clearly state their purpose or why they want to be entrepreneurs. Once you can identify the reason why you do what you do, then you are half way through. If it was easy, everyone will do it but the journey as an entrepreneur takes more than just saying it. Just take the step and DARE TO DREAM!

 

What inspires you and keeps you going?

What keeps me going is my family. What I mean by family is my immediate family, my staff, my co-founders and my friends. What keeps me going is knowing very well that I am making a difference in the life of people and changing Ghana and Africa through innovation.

What inspire me are the challenges I face and overcome each day. As the saying goes, “if you do what is easy, life will be hard; but if you do what is hard, life will be easy”.

 

How do you relax and what books do you read?

Spending time with family, going on trips, and a little bit of sports keeps me relaxed. I read books mainly on Leadership, motivational speeches, and strategic and planning books.

 

   

Kenneth A. Nelson and team recently in Dubai presenting QualiTrace and QualiScan.

 

Short Bio

Born on the 6th of January, 1990 to Ghanaian parents, Kenneth A. Nelson is an Agribusiness expert with skills in supply chain management, marketing and sales.

Author Mark Twain once said that, “the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why”. I cannot say if I have figured out the ‘why’ factor yet, but I believe entrepreneurship has always been my awakening. My motivation in life is to solve complex challenges and problems and making a difference in people’s life. Probably not for the fame but for the sweet satisfaction that you are closer to becoming the likes of Nelson Mandela and Albert Einstein.

My goals change from time to time with respect to the task or challenge that comes my way. But I also believe my utmost goal in life is to be remembered as a great Person.

 

Kindly with http://qualitracegh.com/

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