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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

Afripreneur

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

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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.

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

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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

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

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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

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