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Interview with Advantage Health Africa CEO, Abimbola Adebakin

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Abimbola Adebakin is the CEO at Advantage Health Africa, a digital health provider and aggregator with a
niche in promoting and leveraging technology solutions in building the Africa Health Ecosystem of the future. The former Chief Operating Officer(COO) of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, in an e-interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she reflects on how it all started, the current state and future of Advantage Health Africa and the industry. Excerpts.
Tell us about yourself and Advantage Health Africa.
My name is Abimbola Adebakin, I studied Pharmacy and Business Management and I am also a Certified Performance Technologist which really is about looking for and implementing performance improvement. I am married, with a son and reside in Lagos, Nigeria. As a summary, my career has straddled consulting (Accenture and FITC) as well as entrepreneurship development (Caraale Pharmacy, Tony Elumelu Foundation and now Advantage Health Africa).  I see myself as a solutions provider, someone who sees issues as potential opportunities and on a good day, I have a can-do attitude, to explore what is possible – its like an adventure for me, so, my adventures are typically not out in the jungle but in business. Advantage Health Africa, which I lead presently, started from that point – seeing gaps and issues in healthcare, prodding it and evaluating and seeing an entry point (in some business schools, low hanging fruit) and clamping onto that and has led me on a fantastic journey so far.
Advantage Health Africa has evolved from being a performance improvement consulting company to a digital health provider and aggregator. We have carved a niche in promoting collaboration and leveraging services and tech solutions to bring access to small and medium sized operators within the health care space, starting with pharma serving at the primary care level.
This way, we serve as a connector of some sorts (something I have done my whole life). We identified three key gaps – need for proficiency, reduction in costs and increase in revenue. And all our solutions are geared towards that so the providers of healthcare to our continent can do better, have access to skills, resources and markets – essentially, strengthen them to serve you better.
Our flagship, my-medicines.com is on one hand, an access to market solution for community pharmacies, as well as an access to genuine medicines for people who seek to fill their prescriptions and cannot readily find them. Especially those who need the convenience of home/ office delivery or simply need us to fulfill their order back home, while they are in diaspora. Many of our clients order medicines for their parents, and have found us reliable, safe and convenient.
What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
I started Advantage Health Africa twice. The first time, back in 2010, I had some money set aside from my day job and hired a staff, shared office and begun the market research and technology solution part. It didn’t take off well and I left it. Can’t remember how much I spent actually.
The second attempt, I started with Zero Capital (found out later that its actually a concept) which in reality is how many of us entrepreneurs started. It was exploratory, and I leveraged skills and social network this time around.
In going with the business I have raised financial capital from consulting jobs – yes, I didnt have a day job, but I leveraged some skills to help others in some ways that paid money (still doing that). So, actual cash has come from consulting and more recently, from some services rendered as part of our solutions – essentially, we have bootstrapped!
I say this because I find a lot of would-be entrepreneurs have a mental block to the issue of “capital”without realising that capital comes in different forms.
For me, social capital is the most powerful and limitless. It gives you much more leverage than a finite financial capital. You can get goodwill and credit (like we got from some vendors), networking and introductions that many spend money and years getting, which catalyses your business beyond what money can do; clients referrals, brand visibility (which I and my organisation have enjoyed tremendously) and finally, you can get an incredible team (like I have with the Advantage Health Africa team)!
What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how are you overcoming those challenges?
Time – we have so many opportunities we see and managing time to address them in a clear and conclusive manner, is sometimes a challenge. We are constantly seeking efficiency in our processes. Sometimes, turning our back on some opportunities is one way we are managing time, so, there is a pain that comes with that. Multi-tasking and keeping the internal discipline to close on projects is another way we are overcoming this challenge. Right now, we have an Advisory Board and its holding us accountable to key performance indicators (KPIs) and the figures!
Quality – we deal with medicines, so, it is not a frivolous sector.  People depend on us to use all possible means to ensure what they get from us is genuine and safe. So, we are big on Quality Assurance – it has informed our business model and who we get in bed with. Also, its a daily internal core focus that we keep improving and improving. WE share our desires and expectations with the supply side of our work, and this is a big deal. No amount is too much to spare on ensuring quality.
Scalability- I must say a lot of the efficiencies we seek are geared towards scaling our business. I believe sustainability comes from when your business can stand on its own, is reproducible (vertically and horizontally) and ultimately, can survive without you, the initial promoter. So, this is a challenge my team and I focus on largely. Its informing our internal communication (everyone shares the vision), we are forging partnerships (scale is so so tied to others), defining our processes (we hope to franchise, and you can’t do that without key reproducible processes), and learning – we are constantly learning from the good, the bad and the ugly!
Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
We are solutions providers. So, first, I want to see that we have actually – in a measurable way- addressed challenges in the health sector. First, problems of access to medicines for a large population across our continent.  My-medicines.com must be seen as the platform that gets you your medicine – the default name you think of to order medicines. Our network of over 650 offline pharmacies carry the inventory you need. Let us help you get it, and stop trolling the streets in frustration.
I also want to see linkages Advantage Health Africa brings with many other solutions providers in the sector. We are aggregators, collaborators essentially!  So, we are known today as the aggregator you go to for last mile provision of medicines. Various other solutions providers are coming to rely on us for that leg of the value chain. That position must be strengthened.  I have this “jigsaw puzzle” perspective to solving the health care challenges of affordability, access and quality. Each of us serving to solve these  must see ourselves as a piece of the puzzle. We hone in our own part, be the best and assure others there is no need to reinvent the wheel, more like – “I have got this” – and then, be available to others so they focus on other aspects. We cannot all be doing just a few things and leave the rest unattended to.
The powerful interconnectedness that comes from that is what we need to leapfrog and really deliver the healthcare that over 1.2 billion Africans need. It is obvious that no one solution or country can achieve it in isolation, and the population growth is one we plan for as well.  Our solutions today must address the needs of 5, 10, 30 and 50 years from now.
So, at Advantage Health Africa, we want to be seen as sorting out a few key pieces of the puzzle.
            
Any advice to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
Apart from having a balanced view of capital requirements, I think the other advice will be about business that meets a need.  Is there a market demand.  Recall from basic secondary school economics, demand is not “we like your products” – which some aspect of social media can give you; demand is “how much and where do I pay”.  It is tied to payment for your service.  Don’t get busy and distracted by how appealing you appear. Be focused on generating demand – find and retain your paying customers. Either for services or goods.
I say find and retain – many may find first time buyers, but repeat purchases and referrals is what you can build a business on. Look for that in your focus.
Other things matter, like your team, your patents, your partners and the value you bring to the table, etc. So, learn and keep learning about getting better all round. IF you need to share your business journey with others, so that you don’t lose focus of ALL that matters, please do. Its more important to me to own a part of a vital and successful venture than to own all of a frustrated and truncated venture.
How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?
Our very essence is addressing a key need of the development of Africa – healthcare of the people.  So, we are all about that. We stared with pharmaceuticals and see inroads in to other verticals in the healthcare space. We started in Nigeria and have begun to see inroads into other countries. Our name and brand essence is to bring solutions in the healthcare space across Africa.
Healthcare challenges can very quickly plunge you into poverty, or keep you there.  And no one, absolutely no one, is immune to health care needs. Each one of us will face it someday, if not directly, it may be a spouse or parent or child. So, the sooner we join hands to find lasting solutions that can be adopted across Africa, that are adaptable and adoptable irrespective of country, solutions that explore low entry barriers and high impact – then we can jointly sort out that aspect of our development.
I therefore see Advantage Health Africa bringing these solutions that are tested and getting traction in one line and country, to other lines and countries.
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Edith Njage: My Letter to fellow Female CEOs

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Edith Njage, Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa (Image: Supplied)

Edith Njage is a Social and Serial Entrepreneur based in Africa. She is the Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa, which aims to create over 100,000 jobs in Africa through empowering, training, coaching and connecting and funding entrepreneurs. Edith is the Country Representative for Invicta Ventures on a mission to fund social impact ventures with up to $10 billion in developing markets. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Finance and a Bachelor in Business Management with a major in Economics. A Master of Science in International Business with a major in Disruptive Innovation and a Master of Science in Finance, both from HULT International Business School. Excerpts of her letter below;

 

There are realities that come with being a woman in leadership that in most cases remain secret.

Realities faced but not communicated.

My journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO has been nothing short of rough, tough and everything in-between. The hardest truth is that the journey has been lonely with no-one to turn to, until I decided to make changes to not only my leadership, but my circles as well. I began my journey as a serial entrepreneur at 18, relatively young in the books of most but when a problem in your continent calls, age is never a factor. I became a CEO at 24 and to date I wish someone explained the realities of being a woman in leadership. Especially a young and black woman in leadership.

I wish I knew the bias that I would face each time I walked into a room and sat on the table when most expected me to just bring the coffee,

I wish I knew that fundraising would be more about my gender and race than the value my companies brought to the table,

I wish I knew that the most powerful weapon a female CEO can wield is a network of other female CEOs,

I wish I didn’t do it all alone.

Dear Female CEOs,

You are powerful. You are graceful, You are beautiful in leadership. I know that the world has taught you to blend in, I know you have been told to use your position or title to protect your vulnerability and I know most days it feels like no-one in the world can understand what it is like to be you. I want you to know the key to our strength is each other. I want you to know that rather than face the bias alone, rather than rise to the top alone, we can band together and not only rise but build a system for the next generation of female CEOs to struggle less than we did.

Where the world has called us bossy, let’s exude grit and relentless pursuit of our dreams,

Where they have called us soft, we can preach emotional intelligence and finally,

Where they have prevented our progress, we can build paths for the progress of other women after us.

This is our time, but we cannot go at it alone. We must band together and begin talking about these realities, not in secret but for the world to see. It is for this reason that I decided about a month ago that enough was enough and that it was important for me to begin sharing the truth behind my journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO. I started a podcast!

Since beginning this journey I am in awe of how many women in leadership, in business, in politics and in corporate have reached out sharing their stories!

The Latest Episode is available below (streamed to Spotify and Apple Podcast). Adding onto that I have decided to be intentional about building a Female CEO Global Board. A space for Female CEOs to share their stories, struggles, plans for growth of their businesses and so much more!

If this is something that interests you and you would like to join us next week or maybe just find a safe space and community of women who understand, book a coffee chat with me here; https://calendly.com/edith-njage-alpha-group/one-on-one

I became intentional about building circles with fellow female CEOs and investing into those circles so that as a tribe we would all rise! Rise in business, rise in our purposes and pursuits and rise in who we are as people in the world.

As always, I hope that unashamedly sharing my truth will help you know that you are never alone.

 

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Interview with a Polyglot: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services

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Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services (Image: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo)

Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo is a polyglot who speaks nine (9) foreign languages. She is the Founder of Empress Linguistics Services (ELS) creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across  borders. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Favour about what it means to be a polyglot, her journey in entrepreneurship and much more. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your journey into entrepreneurship?

Favour: Becoming the Solution! Oh yes, I proffer Solutions. My name is Favour Chisimdi Emerald Nwobodo from Enugu state in Nigeria. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be the Solution to people’s problems. Growing up, I got to witness the high rates of unemployment/poverty in the country, and the urge to put an end to this problem started growing.

At first, I started EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES (my brand) as a Linguistics brand – just Translations and Language Tutorials. I was the only one handling it but at some point, I did quit. During those bad moments, I was aimlessly searching on google when I saw the current finance situation. I felt bad – Nigeria is slowly losing “NAIRA”. I went on to search for ways to strengthen the economy of the country and I saw “Promotion of international trade” That struck!. But we’ve got machines and interpreters, why is yours different?

But then machines would be machines and sometimes those Interpreters might Interpret wrong stuff and scam people. I left the site and went into proper thinking, I thought about it and came up with ” LINGUISTICS IN FINANCE ”- when Linguistics meets Finance, it doubles it, it revives the currency etc.

I went on to propound the “LINGUISTICS IN BUSINESS SYSTEM”. I tried my hypothesis with a client’s job and it worked- I was convinced! So I came back stronger at Empress Linguistics Services and we’ve been able to help companies, businesses, and all thrive.

So far, we have been able to pull off a lot of deals. And from the comfort of our client’s home they are able to run their Businesses with ease, learn  and attain fluency in foreign languages with ease. Our peer to peer service makes it so easy for Companies that most of them stick to it as their Linguistics needs  (Translations and all) are attended to in 24 hours.

Also , seeing the way non English speakers are marginalized in various countries- they can’t access lots of things (products, companies etc) as they can’t understand English. With this, Empress Linguistics Services is working hard to eliminate Linguistics barriers and give them accessibility to various opportunities with LINGUIS-NESS (LINGUISTICS AND BUSINESS) a news platform in various languages that enables non English speakers access lots of information in  various languages.

 

Alaba: Empress Linguistics is creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across  borders. How did it all start?

Favour: My manager “Barr Chijioke Ojukwu” told me about opening a brand, and the brand “Empress Linguistics Services” was founded. At first, I had no vision. I just wanted to tutor languages and that’s all. I wanted it as a side hustle but then, REDIRECTION happened.

During the trying times, I went off and did some research and founded “Linguistics in Business”- How Linguistics helps to make businesses thrive, it was a great module. I also did some case studies with our client’s business and it thrived. It was a sell out, this prompted me to seek for “Linguistics in Finances” to help companies, firms and organizations meet their target companies and stabilize their finance goal by thriving in non english sectors. 

Currently, we’re about entering the TECH and HEALTH sector to create products/services to serve everyone and make life easy. Just like our slogan says, “With ELS, lives are made easier”.

 

Alaba: Can you describe in detail what your company does and the response from your target market?

Favour: Empress Linguistics Services is a Linguistics Service aimed at profering Linguistics solutions to Businesses and the world at large. We’re in to make the world a better place with Linguistics and so far we’ve been good. Reaching the target market hasn’t been as I just entered the niche but I’m damn enjoying my growth. It’s worth it.

EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES is currently working on the Health sector with another product “DIGITAL HEAVEN”. I am sure you can wait for it. Some of our services are;

  • Translations Services
  • Interpretation services
  • Proofreading Services
  • Language tutorial Services
  • Transcription services
  • Advertisement in various languages
  • Jingles in various languages
  • Website Translations
  • App Translations
  • Movie Subtitlings
  • Lyrics Translations, etc.

 

Alaba: What makes your brand different from the rest of the language translation startups in Africa?

Favour: What makes ELS stand out is ELS would always be ELS. The goal of ELS is to solve the Linguistics needs of Man. We are here to proffer solutions to man’s needs. Also at ELS, we have the peer to peer services that enables companies to get their Linguistics needs in less than 24 hours and from their own comfort.

We’re not a Translation startup, we’re a Linguistics startup as we offer both translations, tutorials and more. We’re in for TECH, HEALTH , EDUCATION and FINANCE and we’re working on making things easier in those sectors.

 

Alaba: You seem to really enjoy learning languages. What would you recommend to people who don’t like language learning but still want to speak in a new language?

Favour: When people say “Languages are hard” I tell them everything is easy once you understand the methodology but unfortunately some school’s methodology are so bad that people struggle to learn foreign languages and that’s why ELS was born to make it easier for MAN. At ELS, we make language learning easy and fun.

 

Alaba: What did you find to be the biggest myth when it comes to language learning?

Favour: Mmmmm, the myth I got to find out is “elimination of FEAR” and knowing the grammar rules. 

Most language speakers don’t try to learn the grammar rules as they feel it’s a waste of time and it makes it hard for them to attain fluency easier and faster. Some of them find it hard to read and speak because of this. 

This is the secret to the faster fluency in our students . Some get to make sentences and speak in their 2nd month. Once the rules are understood, you’re good to go.

 

Alaba: Who are some of the modern polyglots you are impressed with, and why?

Favour: Jaindersingh , my friend on LinkedIn is a Polyglot speaking nine Languages and I’m impressed. They’re good. But for now, I’m yet to see people proffering solutions with Businesses and that’s why I’m in to make all that happen with ELS.

 

Alaba: Where do you see ELS in the next 5 years?

Favour: In the next 5 years, I see ELS as the No1 Linguistics company in the world creating solutions in various sectors of the world.

 

Alaba: As a student-preneur, what is your advice to students who are aspiring to make an impact through entrepreneurship?

Favour: My advice is that they shouldn’t give up as nothing good comes easy, it might take time but it’s gonna be worth it. They were days when I was laughed at for learning foreign languages,  days when I was looked down on.

But look at it now? That’s life!! Just keep doing what you’re doing. and like I’ve always said it’s “Quality consistency” or nothing.

 

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Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara on his journey into entrepreneurship and the untapped moving industry

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Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara (Image: Supplied)

Imara Benedict Oghenero, is an IT expert, entrepreneur and Eficaz Movers CEO, a logistics company focused on household, office and warehouse moves. In his Interview with Alaba Ayinuola, he shares his journey into entrepreneurship, the bottlenecks from government regulations, he also pointed out that the movers industry remains untapped. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your entrepreneurship journey?

Ben: My name is Imara Benedict Oghenero, I was born in Ughelli, Delta State and grew up in Lagos. I am the 4th child in a family of five. I attended Houdegbe North American University where I obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSC) in computer science. I started working in the IT department for QX solutions, a company that deals on car tracking devices. My entrepreneurship journey started in 2019, when I founded Eficaz Movers Limited.

Alaba: What inspired you to launch Eficaz Movers and how do you operate?

Ben: In July 2019, I was about to move to a new house, so I decided to search for moving companies and I found a particular company that carried out the move for me but when they finished moving my stuffs, I found out most of my properties were damaged. So that evening it flashed in my head, why not start up a moving company of my own, so I started my research immediately and that was how Eficaz Movers Ltd came about and decided people deserve extremely good standard in moving services.

Moving can be a stressful task, so Eficaz Movers Limited can make the experience fun and seamless, we do Apartment, Office and Household moves (whether you need to move your office, industry facility or warehouse) Eficaz Movers Ltd is your one stop.

Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges and successes since you launched?

Ben: Like every business, there are always challenges when setting up/running a business. We have had some challenges in the past that set us back a little when I started the business, however to mention a few, Driver Shortage, Government Regulations, Complexity of deliveries are some of the challenges faced in the business.
I think our major success happened in the year 2020. We were able to carry out a total of 45 household moves, 7 office relocation and 23 store deliveries for the year ended December 2020, which generated some loyal customers of our’s till date.

Alaba: What is the current state of Eficaz Movers and the steps you took to grow the business to where it
is today?

Ben: We are currently among the top 5 moving companies on the Lagos island environs (Lekki, Ajah, Ikoyi, Victoria Island), with a staff strength of about 15 people, However we are looking forward to growing the business to become one of the top 5 moving companies in Nigeria.

Some of the steps I took included; recurrently training our staffs to become specialized professionals in their fields, increased our social media presence as that has proven to be a major catalyst in influencing consumer decision making and I must say the evolving/increase in technology has also contributed to the growth of the business.

We also improved our customer care/relationship with our clients as well as improved working environment for the staffs.

Alaba: A number of African “Uber-for-trucks” platforms have emerged in recent years. How competitive is this industry?

Ben: That hasn’t really affected our business a lot. It’s quite competitive but the modus and standards in which we carry out our job is outstanding and it set’s us aside from others.

Imara Benedict Oghenero, CEO of Eficaz Movers with Team

Alaba: What are your expansion plans and future for Eficaz Movers?

Ben: I’m looking forward to a more bigger work space and storage facility, opening few other offices in area’s where we are mostly demanded. Expand with more staff strength as well as trucks and other equipment to increase efficiency. The future of Eficaz Movers is to become a household name when it comes to relocation services in Nigeria. We want to become your go to place when you think relocation.

Alaba: Describe the toughest situation you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

Ben: The toughest situation I have found myself in will be one time when we were just training some new employees in the parking/loading department in the year 2019, a customer’s valuable was damaged, it was a tough period for me as the business was still new and barely generating profit, so I had to ensure the customer’s valuable was replaced in due time.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Ben: I must say it’s not easy being an African entrepreneur because there are a lot of barriers, government regulations that act as constraints to your business but there’s also a lot of potential in the Africa market that is yet to be exploited.

Alaba: If you had the chance to start this business again, what would you do differently?

Ben: I would probably increase the marketing budget higher than I predicted when I started the business, infuse more social media awareness/marketing, I will also improve the level of training offered to our then new staffs.

Alaba: What is your advice to young budding entrepreneurs in Africa?

Ben: Starting small appears difficult but it’s a step ahead of those who don’t dare to try, keep putting effort in what you do and stay consistent.

 

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