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Interview: Medixus is connecting the world’s medical community, starting with Africa – Nicole Kayode

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Nicole Kayode, Co-founder at Medixus

Quality patient care relies on smooth communication between healthcare professionals, and access to resources that will further their development. This is a global truth, particularly in developing countries where there is growing demand for improved health services. In this e-Interview, Nicole Kayode speaks with Alaba Ayinuola, on how Medixus is connecting health professionals of all backgrounds and levels of experience through its mobile and web platform for virtual mentors, making CPD resources and peer-to-peer discussions accessible for all. Excerpts.

 

 

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

Nicole: Medixus is a mobile and web based application for healthcare workers across the African continent to collaborate on challenging patient cases. The idea is largely that through knowledge sharing and community, we can empower healthcare workers to make better clinical decisions, provide peer support and ultimately improve patient care.

I am the co-founder of Medixus, having had the idea following personal loss in the Nigerian healthcare system. My role is very broad as we are a small team so everyone does a bit of everything! The primary thing I spend my time thinking about is how to scale the business so we can drive the highest impact possible.

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

Nicole: We started Medixus with no capital! We are still bootstrapped – we run the business out of our own pocket at the moment. Through a combination of savings, and working we make sure that the little money we do have goes as far as possible, and be as impactful as possible. We are looking to begin raising some capital now that we’ve gotten some market validation though and primarily doing this through reaching out to very early stage investors and venture capitalists all over the world, including many on the continent.

 

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

Nicole: One of the challenges with any tech company is product market fit – does the product you have fit the markets needs? This is an ongoing process of learning and iterating! The competition is mainly the traditional communication platforms that medics use at the moment (e.g. Whatsapp and Facebook) though we hope, through our product market fit, to overcome this by building a ‘for purpose’ communication platform which makes their lives a bit easier. Primarily we do this by listening to our users, and iterating the product based on their realities.

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

Nicole: We hope Medixus will scale globally one day, but first be known as a proudly African product. I truly believe that there is potential to drive massive impact through the platform in multiple ways. One of these is by supporting healthcare workers and reducing any potential sense of professional isolation (no woman is an island). Another is through empowering healthcare workers, of all cadres eventually, to make the most informed clinical decisions thus transferring the benefits directly to their patients.

To get there we are really pushing to get the word out about the platform to doctors across the continent, with a focus on Kenya initially, to get them signing up and using the platform. We hope this will give us lots of data and feedback so we can continue to improve and grow the community.

 

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa’s health ecosystem?

Nicole: We know that we have a problem on the continent in terms of our doctor to patient ratio – which is two pronged: not training enough doctors and not retaining the doctors we do have. Among other reasons, medics say that lack of professional support and mentorship is one of the reasons they leave the continent to seek pastures anew. We hope through creating this pan-African medical community we can go some way to reducing this by ensuring that support and mentorship are available in real time, at the touch of a button.

We are also creating a sustainable portal for knowledge sharing  – once I have learned that a particular symptom is cause to investigate a certain condition, I will have that knowledge forever. This contributes to the ‘capacity building’ of our healthcare workers that we often hear banded around in discussions about healthcare in Africa, but in such a way that centers the individuality of each healthcare worker on the platform and their unique knowledge needs.

 

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

Nicole: This is a very big question!  I think this is impossible to answer well at a continent wide level as all the individual countries on the continent are at different stages in the business ecosystem development timeline – some are more advanced in certain sectors than others, some have more mature startup ecosystems than others etc. but broadly speaking, the continent is becoming an increasingly favorable environment to do business.

There are many market opportunities, but also challenges that come with the youthfulness of the ecosystems that trailblazers have to overcome. A greater emphasis on public-private partnerships seems to be flavor of the moment, and as we’ve seen more institutional investment money is flowing into the continent in the form of startup investments.

 

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

Nicole: Much the same as the advice I would give to any entrepreneur anywhere!

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks.
  • Don’t worry if things take much, much longer than you hoped – if you don’t have a huge amount of cash to invest upfront often it will be a longer journey.
  • Don’t believe the hype of an ‘overnight success’ story – nothing happens overnight, almost always there was years of ground work behind that success.
  • Do validate your market; is there a genuine need for your product? Don’t be afraid to tweak your original product based on what the market tells you!

My advice to those investing in Africa is a bit simple: don’t be scared of our continent. Most entrepreneurs here fail because of lack of capital, not because the idea wasn’t needed or well executed. We need more investors who are willing to invest in early stage businesses, who are willing to back the founders and take a risk early on rather than only talking about it.

 

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

Nicole: I feel very proud to be an African entrepreneur! I think entrepreneurial spirit runs in the cultural make up of many of us – particularly we Nigerians where hustle is practically a birthright! I am also aware though of my role as an African in diaspora, and what that means for our business – it is important also to bring on board the perspectives, advice and deep local know-how of those who have grown up on the continent. I feel a sense of pride at being able to contribute to the betterment of our continent and contribute to changing, or at least widening, the Western narrative around Africa which is centered on dooms and glooms.

We are a continent with problems, just like any other region of the world, the West included – but we are also a continent of innovation, energy, pride and beauty.

 

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

Nicole: I am very into yoga, and actually qualified as a yoga teacher this time last year – I find it helps you find a sense of calm and acceptance when things get tricky on and off the mat. That really helps to relax me and is probably the only form of ‘exercise’ I do!

I read a range of books, as I have gotten older I make a concerted effort to read fiction written by African authors but I also read a lot of non-fiction books about science, neuroscience & psychology since I am slightly obsessed with understanding  why things are the way they are. I’m also trying to read more about the history of our continent as written by African authors – one I’m working through at the moment is called The History of the Yorubas written by a Nigerian Reverend called Samuel Johnson.

  

 

Short Bio:

Nicole is a Nigerian-British entrepreneur with a background in medical research and a passion for using technology to improve healthcare across the continent. Having worked in start-ups most of her professional life in business and product development roles, she decided to combine her interest for technology, business and healthcare in Africa by launching Medixus.

Kindly Visit: medixus.co

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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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Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme Application Opens

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The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropy dedicated to empowering African entrepreneurs, opens applications on its TEFConnect digital platform (www.tefconnect.com) today, January 1, 2021.

This year’s intervention prioritises the economic recovery of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and young African entrepreneurs, following the Covid-19 disruption to economic activities.

To address the unique challenges arising from the pandemic, lift millions out of poverty and create sustainable employment across the continent, the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme will empower 1,000 young African entrepreneurs, selected from the 2020 cohort.  The Foundation will also open applications to an additional 2,400 young entrepreneurs in 2021, in collaboration with global partners.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which celebrated ten years of impact in 2020, is empowering a new generation of African entrepreneurs, through the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.  Successful applicants receive a world-class business training, mentorship, non-refundable seed capital up to $5,000, and global networking opportunities.  The Programme is open to entrepreneurs across Africa, both new start-ups and existing young businesses, operating in any sector.

CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu stated, “The Tony Elumelu Foundation now more than ever is demonstrating our commitment to unleashing the potential of young African entrepreneurs, the key to Africa’s long-term economic transformation.  The pandemic has created challenges across the continent, but we know that with the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s tried and tested Programme, we can execute the largest Covid-19 economic recovery plan for African SMEs and break the cycle of poverty in Africa.”

The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s $100million Entrepreneurship Programme, launched in 2015 to empower 10,000 entrepreneurs over 10 years, is now entering its 7th year and has empowered to date, over 9,000 young African entrepreneurs from 54 African countries.

Prospective applicants should apply on the digital networking hub for African entrepreneurs, www.tefconnect.com

Source: The Tony Elumelu Foundation

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