DURBAN – Flying is her life, even if it means journeying into the brave new world of drones and artificial intelligence.
Aiming to transform your dreams into reality? If you think that is impossible you might change your mind once you’ve chatted to Lebohang Lebogo, a medical technician with the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), whose sights are firmly set on reaching for the stars.
Lebogo, 29, is one of South Africa’s first generation of drone pilots, whose mission is to save lives delivering bloods to far-flung places where conventional transport is often a challenge, particularly when it comes to emergency services. At the South African National Blood Service conference in Sun City this week she said she was “super excited” to be part of a visionary future in which distance-related medicine is becoming centre stage.
“People are scared that technology and Fourth Industrial Revolution is overtaking the job market. I say embrace the new technologies, learn new skills and become part of the future.” It’s a message that she has certainly taken to heart, creating what she calls a “planned career path” that has a strong humanitarian element. Turning the clock back to the day when she decided that flying was her life, Lebogo believes her mother’s support and influence have been the key to unlocking her dreams.
“We lived in a the Kagiso township near Mogale City. It was quite a troubled place so often as a small child I used to look up at the sky and think what a beautiful quiet place it was. I used to love watching the silver wings of aircraft flying overhead, so graceful like large birds. One day I said to my mother I want to be up there too flying in the clouds. She didn’t laugh. She said she would help me get there. After that I didn’t worry about dolls or clothes, flying and learning about aeroplanes was all that I was interested in.”
Fortunately for the young flying enthusiast, things fell into place at the right time. Her mother was working at the SANBS headquarters in Johannesburg at the time she was leaving school and managed to obtain a training internship for her daughter to become a medical technician, working with blood products, learning the ins and outs of selecting and cross matching bloods for specific patients.
“I couldn’t have chosen a better career. For me knowing that what I was doing was helping to save lives was amazing. Sometimes I would hear about the mums who had been saved during a difficult childbirth and who needed blood, or accident victims who would have died without bloods being rushed to them.” While her training took up most of her time, her dreams of learning to fly were still very much alive.
“Any spare money was spent on flying lessons. Most weekends I spent training in a Cessna 172. I remember the first time I flew and watched the tiny villages and big cities under me, it was like magic. I will never forget it.” With 32 flying hours under her belt and while setting her sights on going solo within the next year, another opportunity came her way that was not to be missed.
“To be honest when I was asked if I would like to learn how to operate a drone I had never heard of one and hadn’t a clue how they worked or what they were supposed to do, but if it meant learning some sort of flying technique then I was all for it.”
She says the day she was introduced to the TRON – an unmanned aviation vehicle (UAV) capable of carrying small loads of cargo across great distances – was an experience of a lifetime.
“And I had been chosen to be part of the team piloting it – wow!”
For SANBS the introduction of a drone blood delivery and collection arm has been a journey into a brave new world, one where artificial intelligence and groundbreaking new technologies are geared to change medicine as we know it.
Amit Singh director of the new drone project gives us an insight into the need for such a mission and the development so far.
“Delivering medical supplies has always been a struggle, especially when it comes to rural areas,” he explains. “With long distances, poor road conditions, and slow land vehicles it can be difficult for supplies to arrive on time. When it comes to healthcare, time is always a factor. A timely delivered vaccine can save lives during outbreaks. On the other hand, late blood transfusions can end with the patient dying while waiting for supplies to arrive. That’s why a drone was an ideal solution.”
For Lebogo, the next few weeks will be devoted to getting her head around the complexities of packaging and storing the different bloods she cross matches and processes, steering and guiding the drone to and from the pick up points keeping within the aviation boundaries.
“With my background in flying I have had to study the Civil Aviation Authority rules and regulations. They are no different from a drone. We don’t have approval yet to operate a drone service, but at least we will be ready to go once the right certification is in place. That will be an historic day for all of us.”
The first step towards that outcome will be to conduct a number of non-delivery practice flights between two of SANBS sites Kopanong Blood Bank and Sebogeng Hospital in Gauteng as part of the proof of concept required by aviation law.
“Once the authorities are happy with the logistics, we are hoping that we can go to the next level,” says Singh. Meanwhile Lebogo will keep her focus on getting her private pilot’s and later her commercial license.
“It all depends on funding, but flying is all I want to do, whether it’s a drone or the real thing. My dream is to fly a plane to Bali. It looks so beautiful.”
FACTS ABOUT THE TRON
The UAV is managed and designed by a German Based company named Quantum Systems. It can be piloted manually or autonomously. It can take off vertically like a helicopter, fly as a fixed wing, and land like a helicopter. It is capable of flying a distance in excess of 100 km carry a payload of two kilograms equivalent to carrying four units of blood. It weighs 13.5kgs, with a wingspan of 3.5m.
The TRON drone is built for fast transport. Its design is similar to a dart – with a wider front and slim back to maximize its speed against the wind. It has an operational range of over 100 kilometers and capable of speeds up to 100 kmph. What is unique, is the fact that TRON can do two-way logistics.
It is designed to carry blood packs, or at least blood samples to and from hospitals in South Africa. With blood as its main demographic, it is important to have a storage device capable of maintaining temperature. A sudden shift in temperature can easily spoil medical supplies, blood included. The supplies also require a durable and stable container that can withstand shaking during flight.
Kevine Kagirimundu: The Rwandan crafting eco friendly and fashionable footwear from recycled car tyres
Kevine Kagirimundu, CEO UZURI K&Y
UZURI K&Y is an African inspired shoe brand and manufacturer established in Rwanda since 2013. The company was founded by two women entrepreneurs (Kevine & Ysolde) who met at the University while studying Creative Designs. The two young women simply believed that it would be ideal to gather knowledge and create a common mission. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola speaks with Kevine Kagirimundu is the Co-Founder and CEO on her entrepreneurship journey into sustainability and fashion, why she is preserving the environment, supporting community and creating jobs through her eco friendly shoe brand. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your entrepreneurship journey?
Kevine: My entrepreneurship journey started when I was a young girl, I used to re-sew grandma’s clothes, no money came from it, just passion. When I joined university I changed my major from “Engineering to Creative & Environmental built”, it was an important step to starting my journey, I was 19 years old and determined as I started gathering ideas in a book, during that time I also met my co-founder Ysolde Shimwe.
Alaba: What attracted you into sustainability and fashion?
Kevine: I come from a creative family of painters, poets and writers. I loved hand making things and I thought that creating was really my passion, with that I really wanted to add a meaningful value that will bring positive change in my community; that’s why our company is part of the circular economy with a focus on waste management.
Alaba: What’s the inspiration behind your brand, UZURI K&Y and the problems it is set to address?
Kevine: UZURI K&Y is an African inspired eco friendly shoe brand with a vision to brand Africa as an origin of sustainable fashion items on the global market. It was established in Rwanda in 2013 by two university friends Ysolde shimwe & Kevine Kagirimundu with a purpose to solve the environment and unemployment issues in their community.
The company’s core problem that it’s solving focuses on recycling the wastes of car tires where everyday in sub saharan Africa, over one million of them are dumped in landfills and sometimes taking up space from inhabited and vulnerable neighborhoods. In addition to that, it takes up to 80 years for a rubber tire to decompose while polluting water, air and even become nurseries for mosquitoes that carry diseases. Furthermore, in Africa the youth makes 60% of the total unemployment rate and young women are more likely to be unemployed even more often than young men.
In order to tackle these issues we craft viable solutions to recycle car tyres to make functional and fashionable footwear for conscious millennial consumers. The company is also currently running its own production facility, four retail stores and using ecommerce to reach international customers. It is also equipping the youth with practical and soft skills to increase their potential of securing jobs or even creating small businesses. So far, 1,065 youth have been trained and among those 70% are women and 10 have started small businesses.
Alaba: How have you been able to attract customers and build the company till date?
Kevine: Our customers are women who seek shop eco products. Our strategy is to use storytelling via social media channels, we also set to offer a wonderful experience via our retail spaces.
Alaba: What challenges did you run into starting out?
Kevine: I would say there are 3 major challenges as we started: lack of skilled labour, dominated market with second hand and imports and access to finance.
Alaba: Are there other areas that UZURI K&Y is aiming to be more sustainable?
Kevine: We have confidence that we shall be able to brunch into a more diverse range of products, such as sustainable sneaker and even turning the wastes into more useful products.
Alaba: One of the things that stood out on your platform was your intense screening process for each item. Can you explain why you decided to go with this process and what it actually involves?
Kevine: We developed techniques and ways to safely produce our products and it has become our unique proposition. It is an advantage and very important to our customers.
Alaba: Is your brand gender inclusive? What is the importance of gender inclusion in the brand’s choices?
Kevine: Yes, it is important with a special focus on creating jobs for women who are often left behind in different fields. Inclusivity is crucial for the entire world to fight gender inequality, we are proud to be part of this change.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Kevine: I believe that entrepreneurs will be the key pioneers to changing the African continent, It feels like being part of a history book!
Alaba: Where do you see UZURI K&Y in terms of products and markets in the next 5 years?
Kevine: A household African brand, with a tremendous impact on the youth through skills transfer and entrepreneurship.
Alaba: Finally, what’s your advice to budding entrepreneurs, especially females in the sustainability and fashion industry?
Kevine: Trust yourself that you can do it!
Opeyemi Adeyemi: Addressing menstruation stigma with her invention, The Flow Game
Opeyemi Adeyemi fondly called dryemz is a Public Health Physician and owner of the sexual health clinic which runs under O and A Medical Center Ogun State, Nigeria. She had her medical training in Sumy State University, Ukraine and MscPH from the University of South Wales. Opeyemi invented The Flow Game in an effort to address menstruation stigma and has written two books on sexual and reproductive health. Her foundation runs the Brave Boys and Girls club which travels around the South western part of Nigeria to provide sex education to children and teenagers in the effort to fight against public health issues like teenage pregnancy, STIs, HIV/AIDS and Sexual assault. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on her social entrepreneurship journey, The Flow Game and why she is addressing sexual and reproductive health issues. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your social entrepreneurship journey?
Opeyemi: I am a public health physician who is passionate about sexual and reproductive health. I am also the creator of the FLOW GAME which is West Africa’s first board game that teaches menstrual health. My journey started in 2017 during my NYSC program where I met with the impact of misinformation and lack of access to youth friendly sexual clinics had on teenagers and young people. This led me to the start of The Brave Boys and Girls Club tour around secondary schools where students are given age specific sexuality education free of discrimination and judgment. From touring, it gave birth to menstruation workshops, consent workshops and now creation of board games that are afrocentric and youth friendly.
Alaba: What inspired you to launch O & A Medical Center and The Menstrual Flow Game?
Opeyemi: The Sexual Health Clinic is under O and A Medical Center in Asero, Abeokuta where anybody regardless of your background, gender, sexual orientation or any other status can get care for sexual and reproductive health issues. We offer a wide range of services that are cost friendly for the average Nigerian. The Flow game was created because during the tour, I realized the power of menstruation stigma, so decided to involve the team of expertise and the girls from the club in the creation.
Alaba: What is the core issue you are addressing with the Flow Game?
Opeyemi: Menstruation is a subject that still has a great level of shame attached to it. Some cultures still see menstrual blood as dirty blood. Some girls use harmful products to collect their menstrual blood. The Flow Game is a fun way to teach menstrual health and hygiene. The game covers four main areas: the female reproductive system, menstruation and menstrual related health issues, menstrual products, pregnancy and contraception. Other issues touched on include sexual assault, consent and sexually transmitted infections.
Alaba: How have you attracted users and grown the platform from the start?
Opeyemi: The platform is currently being reviewed as the plan is to take it digital; decided to start with a board game as it is easier with the tours, besides an average Nigerian teenager might not have the resources to play the game online and did not want to miss out on these sets of people. The buzz around the game is increasing, the game was recognized on Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 by the African Coalition for Menstrual Health Hygiene and the Indian Commissioner of Women Affairs during a conference held in Bangladesh.
Alaba: Data protection is a concern for users of health platforms. Could you explain your data protection policy?
Opeyemi: Right now we are are currently working on our policy but I can assure users that they would be protected besides the data page in design would require nickname, age, sex and email address.
Alaba: Would you expand in the direction of male health (fertility, contraception, etc)?
Opeyemi: Yes, in June, 2021. In a bid of getting a project with an international organization, the Play It Safe board game was created and it is currently being tested in the school tours. The game is for both genders and covers safe sex practices.
Alaba: As a social entrepreneur, what has been your biggest challenge up until now?
Opeyemi: The field I chose is still faced with a lot of stigma, so a lot of sensitization is involved, changing mindsets and cultures associated with it. The second I would say is finances, balancing the cost of production and the ability of the target community to afford the services rendered.
Alaba: The term Femtech is still quite new. What is your opinion of the state of Femtech industry and its growth?
Opeyemi: Femtech has had a massive impact on female health, so many innovative ideas that are gender specific. A good example are period tracking apps which have allowed women to track the menstrual cycle, have a better understanding of their cycle and make informed decision about fertility. I am happy to be in the industry and I know there is still so much more to be done especially in Nigeria.
Alaba: Where do you see the Flow Game and sexual wellness in the next 5 years?
Opeyemi: This is one question I keep asking myself every day, I desire to go beyond the Flow Game. Very few innovations on sexual and reproductive health tailored to the African woman. I would like to be one of the women creating sexual health innovations that are Afrocentric in the next five years.
Alaba: As an inspiring social entrepreneur, what piece of advice would you give to fellow female entrepreneurs?
Opeyemi: Invest in knowledge; learn from those who have done things in your desired field. Also understand that gender is nothing more than a social construct it does not define YOU, whatever you want to achieve is not tied to gender. Dream big and take steps to turn the dreams into realities.
Interview with Insure Africa Founder, Judith Pila On Driving Insurance Inclusion
Judith Pila, Founder Insure Africa (Image: Supplied)
Judith Pila is the Founder of Insure Africa, a company whose main goal is to drive insurance inclusion in Africa through literacy, education, and awareness. Aside being an insurance professional, Judith is a contributing writer to Insuranceopedia, an online insurance information platform focused on Canada and US markets. She is the Content Director for Ladies Corner Canada Magazine, a Board Director for LCC Media Foundation. She volunteers with various organizations like, Insurance Institute of Canada, Career Education Council, SoGal Foundation. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on her entrepreneurship journey into the insurance ecosystem and why she is driving insurance inclusion with Insure Africa. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and how you end up building in the insurance space?
Judith: My name is Judith Pila, born and raised in Nigeria, I now live in Canada. My journey to the insurance industry was purposive and one inspired by the need to do something different in an environment where it seemed everyone else wanted regular careers. Shortly after I moved to Canada, I already knew the industry was where I needed to be. In 2015, I began my career in insurance.
Alaba: For those who don’t know, what does Insure Africa do?
Judith: Insure Africa is a company that is, focused on driving insurance inclusion in Africa through literacy, education and awareness. We also provide consulting services to individuals and small businesses, we help them make smart and informed insurance decisions to help meet their personal and business goals.
Alaba: What makes Insure Africa special from other startups driving insurance inclusion?
Judith: While other startups are driving insurance inclusion through Artificial Intelligence and Technology, Insure Africa is doing same through literacy, awareness, making sure that Africans are well informed about insurance, so that when they decide to take on any insurance products, they are equipped with the knowledge they need.
Alaba: What have been the biggest challenges and successes in building Insure Africa till date?
Judith: I think I would have less to say in this regard, considering that Insure Africa has been actively operating as a company for only about four months. I think the biggest challenge has been trying to convince people that we are not insurance salespeople. I think the moment you mention insurance to someone in Africa, they feel like you are trying to sell them a product. People that we have been able to reach, see value in the services we offer and have given us positive feedbacks, I would consider that a success.
Alaba: How has the insurance industry evolved?
Judith: Unlike before, when most people thought insurance was only for the rich and large corporations, more and more people are now seeing the need for insurance. The Covid-19 pandemic has also proved the importance of insurance. And with the use of technology, insurance companies are now offering insurance products through different channels making it more accessible to consumers like never before.
Alaba: Kindly share the most difficult part of being a CEO of a startup?
Judith: I think one of the most difficult part is the unpredictability, that what you are trying to build will either fail or be a success.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Judith: I feel great and inspired by other African entrepreneurs who have made it to the top.
Alaba: What are Insure Africa’s expansion plans in terms of product, tech & markets in the next 5 years?
Judith: We are more of a service company and have plans of reaching as many people as possible that might need our services. We do have tech plans but are not ready to share those plans yet. We already have representatives in about 5 African countries and think that the opportunities are endless, and the future is looking bright.
Alaba: Finally, what piece of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Judith: Keep building, there are going to be tough days, but hold on to the vision and hope for a better end.
Afripreneur2 days ago
Kevine Kagirimundu: The Rwandan crafting eco friendly and fashionable footwear from recycled car tyres
Investment2 days ago
ILLA, an African asset-light FMCG Logistics Company Raises $2M Investment Round
Technology1 day ago
AOC dazzles visitors with a special game room at GITEX Technology 2021