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Interview with Advantage Health Africa CEO, Abimbola Adebakin



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, 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. 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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Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care is bringing petcare to your home



Vetwork Inc Founders, Abdelreheem Hussein and Fady Azzouny (Source: Vetwork)

Pets today are considered family members, best friends, confidants, and so much more. Taking care of them requires more than just love and dedication, but also the right knowledge to recognize when something is not right. Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care industry one country at a time and its mission is to make pets healthier, pet owners happier. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Fady Azzouny Founder and CEO of Vetwork Inc talked about his entrepreneurship journey, his vision for petcare with Vetwork and the future plan. Excerpts.


Alaba: Why did you start and what’s the passion behind it?

Fady: Petcare should be easy, as it stands its full of inefficiencies for both pet parents and vets. Instead of a crowded clinic with a waiting time of 30-45 minutes, vets come to you at home at the time you choose. Rather than try to muster up a massive amount of money to fund a clinic, vets can practice their services without any initial cost and make extra money to live a better life.

The vision of regulating the petcare industry involves a lot of innovation, our dream is to use the available technologies to make everyone’s lives easier and right now we’re on the right track.


Alaba: What is your background?

Fady: I graduated as a veterinarian, but I consider myself an entrepreneur. I saw some problems in the veterinary market while I was still studying and started a bunch of projects, with a few of them turning into medium sized companies. My initial problem was the absence of technology in my solutions, with Vetwork I think we can really achieve my vision of making petcare easier.


Alaba: What are the problems you are solving and what is your value proposition?

Fady: Its simple, we are solving the problem of finding a good vet by selecting our vets from a pool of more than 1000 annual applications. And the problem of waiting in the clinic through Home visits available 24/7. Also, we are addressing Vets problems of low wages and salaries by offering them easy access to extra income.

Vetwork is reliable, affordable and available petcare.


Alaba: Tell us more about the process, users, business model!

Fady: As we stand the process is the same across Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE). We onboarded more than 300 vets across these three countries. These vets help us cater to our customer’s needs. A pet parent can log into our website or app and request a service at the time of their choosing. A vet will be assigned and introduced to the client.

The vet will then arrive, conduct the visit and deliver a detailed orientation on the tips and tricks of petcare. Our medical records also allow us to follow-up with our pet parents to make sure that everything is going according to plan and their pet is getting better.


Alaba: What are your main challenge?

Fady: Since we promise to deliver all your pets needs to you, finding the right groomers, trainers, vets and boarding facilities is always a challenge due to our strict onboarding guidelines.


Alaba: What is your achievements and coming plan?

Fady: After launching in three countries our plan is to start expanding further into the MENA region and build our presence in the countries that need us the most. Our tech infrastructure allows us to launch in any country in a matter of days and we plan to take advantage of this to test markets and become your pets partner anywhere in the Middle East.


Alaba: Do you think the ecosystem support you?

Fady: Ideas and mentorship, we’re always happy to learn and listen to other people’s ideas on how we can make petcare an easier process. We try our best to promote pet adoption since a lot of shelters are full of pets that need a home. Access to people with a wider audience can surely help us deliver our message to the people that need us the most.

Visit Vetwork


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Zoe Adjonyoh, the Ghanaian Irish Chef, Writer and Activist revolutionizing African Cuisine



Zoe Adjonyoh, Founder at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Source: Zoe Adjonyoh)

Zoe Adjonyoh is on a mission to bring African food to the masses. Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and chef from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana. Described by the Observer as “the standard bearer for West African food” and named by Nigel Slater as ‘one to watch’ bringing immigrant food to Britain. She was named one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out and most recently has been included as one of ‘The 44 Best Female Chefs in the World’ by Hachette Cuisine France. She became a judge at “The Great Taste Awards” in 2016, which is known as the “Oscars” of the food industry, and in 2018, she won the Iconoclast award at The James Beard Foundation.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

Zoe began by selling Ghanaian food outside her front door during the 2010 Hackney Wicked Arts Festival to ‘make a bit of pocket money’ after returning from traveling across The United States. After the popularity of the stall she set up selling peanut stew outside her front door, Zoe went on the host many supper clubs in her home consistently selling out.

Zoe has been making waves in the international food scene ever since. Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London, Berlin, Accra, Russia and New York, and is a leader in the new African cuisine revolution. Along with her world-renowned supper clubs, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.

In 2017, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen became a roving private dining, street food, wedding and events company, which Zoe ran alongside her chef residencies. The brand is a prominent force in the festival community around the UK, including Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective, and came runner-up as ‘Best Street Food Trader’ at the UK Festival Awards 2017.

Revolutionizing West African Food

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the first modern West African Restaurant in the United Kingdom. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the epitome of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice, alongside Zoe’s contemporary West African creations.

In 2014, Zoe began writing her debut cookbook titled ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ and was released in 2017 by
Octopus Books. The first modern West African Cookbook to be published in the United Kingdom. Due to its demand the publishers decided to re-release of the cookbook in November 2020 and is the process of working on her second book.

Source: Zoe Adjonyoh

Visit Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen


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Coco Olakunle, the Nigerian Dutch photographer passionate about humanity, inclusion and diversity



Coco Olakunle is a Nigerian Dutch photographer with a background in Human Geography based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her cultures and lived experience are constant sources of inspiration. This produces a photography style that can be seen as a crossover between documentary and fashion, where she always try to highlight the importance of the subject’s identity and background. During her work time, she likes to create a space where the subject feels comfortable and at ease being themselves and letting their personality show. Coco finds that when the subjects in her work feels comfortable, it is felt in the overall process and in the end product.

Her work revolves around people and the personalities they embody: Coco uses her camera as a way to engage with humanity and peacefully open the doors of full spectrum inclusivity and representation. She’s constantly creating spaces for her subjects to express themselves and discover who they are. The subject is always the starting point but what you see in the image is actually a snapshot of her vision: how I want to see us.

“For most of us, 2020 was a tough year. At the beginning of the year, all my jobs were cancelled. Being in lockdown and not being able to work forced me to rethink my skill set. I wasn’t able to practice photography though photoshoots, but I was able to share my experience as a freelance photographer with others. During that time, I got the opportunity to be in front of the classroom multiple times at various art academies, including one I had been previously rejected from as an applicant. To me, this proves that there are different tracks and ways to achieve your goals. Talking to the next generation of visual artists about my work and the philosophy behind it was a new experience for me. It was refreshing to bring other perspectives to the table, especially not coming from an art academy myself. I feel a great responsibility bringing new perspectives into these institutions and guiding students in finding their visual identity and translating it into their creative work.” Coco said.

One of my absolute highlights from 2020 was shooting the cover of ELLE magazine’s September issue. This was super exciting because I got to focus more on the fashion side of photography, and it was such an honor to have my work on the cover of such a big magazine. I look forward to doing more work in the field of fashion, where I can bring my photography style and cultural background to the table. I am constantly inspired by so many great African photographers, some of which are Nigerian, which makes me even more proud. Seeing all the creative work that comes from the continent inspires me from a distance, and even more when I am there.

Coco aim to get back to Lagos, as soon as possible. She said, “Creating in the motherland is very personal for me because it’s a way for me to connect with and learn more about my culture and my people on a deeper level. Being on Nigerian soil gives me a different type of creativity and inspiration from within and I love working with my people when I am there. My camera is like a passport that gives her access to new people and stories which I love bringing back with me and sharing.”

One of her personal projects is a documentary fashion series about her family in Lagos, which she sees as a personal exploration of her Nigerian culture and an exciting challenge. The idea for this project stems from when she was young. “I dream about Nigeria a lot and created my own image of how it would look in my head, and how my family would be. This visualization is my starting point for this series, blending my own vision with what I see when I am there. This project is a way for me to connect with my heritage and discover more about Nigerian culture, and, through that, myself.” Coco said.

In terms of personal development, she hopes to explore different sides of photography she is less familiar with. Coco is excited to master the physics of lighting, because she believes light is how you paint a picture. She loves learning new things in general, making the entire process to be a fun one.

“The past year brought me a lot of new opportunities and new perspectives which I am grateful for, and hope to take with me further into the next years. For the new year, my focus will be on sharing and creating supportive environments where other photographers can connect with and uplift each other.” She said.

A few weeks ago, Coco organized a ‘Creative Catch Up’ for a small group of creatives to reflect on the past year and share ideas for the next year. With good food, music and a table filled with (photography) books this get together turned into a supportive environment where they shared project ideas, thoughts and insecurities. Something she thinks they as freelancers should do more often.

Her work

Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle

Visit Coco Olakunle


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