Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi is a Tanzanian innovator working to disrupt the public health sector in Africa. She is founder of Mobile afya (M-afya), a “Mobile encyclopedia for public health in Africa” that provide basic health information on-demand as well as personal wellbeing education to parents and youth, with a focus on young women. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she shares insights on the gap the her Mobile App is filling, the challenges faced by the startup, her plans for its future, and the development of the e-Health ecosystem in Africa. Excerpt.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about M-afya and the gap its filling?
Mariatheresa: Mobile afya (M-afya) is the first USSD application in Africa using internet-free mobile technology to provide basic health information in local and native languages starting with Swahili in Tanzania, East Africa. M stands for mobile and Afya means health in Swahili — the most spoken language in Africa.
THE GAP: Digital divide in Africa resulting in health information gap.
For decades there has been a gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology and those that don’t or have only restricted access. It can include services like telephone, television, personal computers and the Internet. Majorly affecting developing countries, this digital divide prevents distribution of essential information and knowledge to those who need it the most.
Health information gap in Tanzania — Radio is the main source of information and news in Tanzanian homes, but only 5% of all broadcasted content is health-related and yet listeners do not have influence or choice of which topics to be covered.
Internet fails to be an efficient source of information because only 30% of Tanzanians can actively access the web; and in addition, most of the content online is in English, a language spoken by only a minority group of Tanzanians.
This gap results in unnecessary suffering and deaths from easily preventable diseases and health conditions; also it continues family cycles of poverty due to lack of access to information on family planning, resulting in large numbers of unplanned children and high levels of child/teen pregnancy as well as many other negative side effects.
Mobile afya (M-afya) is tackling this problem by making health and wellbeing information accessible.
Alaba: What is the inspiration behind this brand?
Mariatheresa: My work and study with children in poverty / homeless children which led me to discover the gap of information in “Sexual and reproductive health” leading to families having more children than they can take care of, the findings encouraged me to do further research where a bigger gap was then discovered. What keeps us going is the fact that we have the ability to influence informed decisions on health and wellbeing of Africans resulting to life saving impacts.
Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
Mariatheresa: Our startup is still in seed funding level. We have been able to raise the funds first and foremost from ourselves (the founding team), after we got support from family and friends. We have done our best to bootstrap for as long as possible and now we are working to secure our first investment round with interested partners from Germany and the United States.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competitions and how are you overcoming them?
Mariatheresa: We have limited competition as we are looking to be first in market with offline USSD application – existing solutions operate online. We believe we will face competition in the near future thus our efforts in preparing competitive strategies to ensure larger market share. Utilizing user data is key in giving us first hand advantage in this strategizing effort.
As a startup the biggest challenges has been working with limited resources but also the long journey of product validation and creating a user centered product which was our main priority.
As a founder I faced challenges in creating structures to support our growing operations but with the advice of experienced mentors I managed to work my way around it. The second challenge was onboarding the right people in the team which involved putting in work to identify what exactly is needed and who is the best fit. l needed people who believed in my vision more than they care for the paycheck as I didn’t have much money to give them anyway, through it all I relied a lot on my gut, how I feel deep in my stomach when I sat next to either a new team member, potential partner, mentor or investor.
Alaba: What’s the future for your brand and what steps are you taking
towards achieving them?
Mariatheresa: Expansion — scale to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where we have more than 100 million potential users starting with Kenya, Uganda and Congo. In 3 years we are looking at expansion and presence in 5 African countries and in 5 different national languages.
Scaling to web platform and Android and iOS apps, to allow smartphone users to still access our services.
Creating substantial “DATA” to support policy makers, decision makers, influence the education system and build smart digital health products for Africa’s fastest growing tech marketplace
First step we are taking is to finalize our round of funding which will allow us to grow our team and develop more content to scale to other parts of Africa.
Alaba: What’s your view on the development of the e-health ecosystem in Africa?
Mariatheresa: We have seen major developments in healthcare and emergency support. For example my country Tanzania has a “digital health investment road map 2017–2023″ with one of the biggest components being to computerize
primary health care including digitisation of patient records. This allows easier data storage, accessibility of records by other medical departments, referral process leading to better patient care.
Also the nation’s medicine and medical equipment stock “Medical Store Department (MSD)” launched electronic logistics management information system (eLMIS) where drugs and other medical supplies all over the country can be ordered online by hospitals and health centers.
Along these national level initiatives there are hundreds of solutions feeding in to the e-health ecosystem for example MomConnect from South Africa and Wazazi Nipendeni from Tanzania both providing maternal health information to subscribers using free text messages. SMS for life working to eliminate stock out of essential medications in Kenya, Ghana, DRC, Cameroon etc. Zipline using drone technology to deliver blood supply in Rwanda. mPedigree a company working to fight counterfeit medications by checking their authenticity in Ghana and Nigeria and many, many more solutions and services with digital components.
Still within the African e-health ecosystem there is a large gap in public health especially with access to information focusing on preventive measures. Few stakeholders are working in the area and that’s where we come in with our startup.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Mariatheresa: Working on Mobile afya (M-afya) for nearly three years has been the most difficult experience of my professional life, yet I feel that I’m making a difference, that the work we do is important and necessary. As I’m working on a cause I’m entirely passionate about, I mostly feel fulfilled but now and then I also feel exhausted as it takes a strong will, focus, organisation skills and consistency to keep up with my work’s demanding schedule.
Alaba: What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and investors?
Mariatheresa: To entrepreneur– Persistence is key — the percentage of startups and businesses that fail is very high, this is because not all ideas are good, and not all ideas have a market / not all ideas come when the time is right for them. In general the entrepreneurial journey is challenging, it will require and take everything you have. There will be times when giving up might feel like the most convenient option; if you are not sure, if you are not ready to give it all – then don’t waste your time.
To investors: Foster diversity, equality and fund grassroot solutions that seek to generate new areas of impact. Apply the “think global, act local mentality”for ideas, services and products formed naturally based on problems or needs of certain regions and countries. Also promote diversity around technologies — it doesn’t always have to be high tech and mainstream — give a chance to low and mid tech companies with viable business modes.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Mariatheresa– Relax : Meditate, travel and taking time off to nature, mountains are my favorite to go place.
Books: Currently reading Becoming by Michele Obama and Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Alaba: Teach us one word in your local language. What is your favourite local dish and holiday spot within Africa?
Mariatheresa– One word: “Asante” — thank you
Local dish: “Rice and Fish — Wali na samaki”
Holiday spot: Zanzibar
B I O G R A P H Y
Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi is a Tanzanian innovator working to disrupt the public health sector in Africa, she has founded Mobile afya (M-afya), a mobile application developed by medical professionals, doctors, engineers and technology enthusiasts to provide health information in native and local languages in Africa.
She is passionate about disruptive solutions, human centered approaches and public health with a goal of impacting well being of Africans using technology as a transformative medium.
Mariatheresa is a recipient of IVLP — A state fellowship for emerging African leaders under US Department of State. Her alma mater is Kampala International University — ICT (Information, Communications & technology)college. She is also a YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) alumni.
She is currently utilizing her experiences and skill sets at Moin world Hamburg while exploring partnerships, investment opportunities and potential synergies for her startup.
Visit: Mobile afya (M-afya)
Wahida Mohamed: Empowering Women And Championing Islamic Financing In Sub Saharan Africa
Wahida Mohamed is the founder of Islamic FinTech Hub and a retail banker with over 10 years’ experience in conventional International trade finance and SME Relationship Management. She has also worked for a Democratic Governance Programme implemented for 3 years immediately post the promulgation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. She has been of service to Somaliland by working for a Mott Macdonald managed – Somaliland Development Fund Secretariat that provided and managed an external development budget aligned to the country’s 5 year National Development Plan.
In order to make better use of her Monitoring and Evaluation qualifications Wahida founded One OAK Consultants that was selected out of 20,000 applicants to be part of the inaugural cohort of The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. One OAK Consultants uses Randomised Controlled Trials. It also makes a comparison of objective and subjective indicators to determine baseline and assess progress as well as impact of development programming interventions. One OAK Consultant she begun exploring the use of Immersive Virtual Reality as a reporting and advocacy tool.
Wahida’s passion for Islamic Finance Research has enabled her to participate in various studies in Sub Saharan Africa commissioned by The Islamic Research Training Institute – the research arm of The Islamic Development Bank, headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Her forte is Islamic financial inclusion, capability and consumer protection studies. She has also led a team that developed a Working Paper entitled Islamic Banking and Economic Infrastructure Development -Kenya’s prospects for The Kenya Bankers Association – Centre for Research on Financial Markets and Policy.
Her keen interest in addressing systemic barriers and other challenges that prevent women and girls from accessing and using financial services therefore impacting negatively on their economic empowerment is one of the drivers for the establishment of her latest venture– The Islamic Fintech Hub for Sub Saharan Africa (IsFHSSA). The other reason being winning a PhD Scholarship Award for ICT for Development.
IsFHSSA targets start-ups from ideation stage with a gender focus lens. Its first cohort comprises of an agribusiness with a halal certification feature that it is looking forward to developing in collaboration with Indonesian Halal Certification experts -PT. Ammacue Ihalals Ummatin. In this way the start-up will open up the Asian and other Islamic Consumer markets for its Sub Saharan Africa domiciled suppliers. This start-up has been selected for 12 months incubation, capacity building and financing by The Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) – an initiative supported by the World Bank’s infoDev and is the first in a global network of CICs launched by infoDev’s Climate Technology Program (CTP).KCIC is funded by the United Kingdom’s UKaid and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another startup is a Takaful solution provider that leverages on blockchain and has just completed participation in round two of the on-going 2020 Corda Challenge. This startup is looking forward to working with Takaful Outsource of Netherlands to develop its sharia compliant products.
IsFHSSA is also host to an e-learning platform that will make use of TAIF Digital Institute – an Islamic Finance & Technology company with offices in UAE & Canada. TAIF is committed to support IsFHSSA initiative to deliver world-class Digital Learning Experience across Kenya & region. TAIF is seeking to connect students and teachers from different schools across Sub Saharan Africa.
Other start-ups in IsFHSSA first cohort are a wholly mobile sharia complaint microfinance targeting the Gambian Market; an app targeting sports persons and teams with the aim of building sports careers as well as refurbishing/commercialisation of grass root sports facilities; a sharia compliant mobile lending platform; institutionalization of Zakat vide a network of masjids; automation of sharia advisory services using Machine Learning and sharia complaint crowd funding platform for real estate and specialized agricultural projects development.IsFHSSA is part of the Fintech Galaxy UAE Ecosystem.
Clearly IsFHSSA less than six months’ trajectory is steep and promises to offer interesting businesses and discourse around Islamic Fintech from Sub Saharan Africa.
Wahida was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya. She holds a Masters in Monitoring and Evaluation from Maseno University, a BSc. Statistics from Egerton University, Post Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Manchester and Diploma in Financial Services Management from the Institute of Financial Services UK.
Serah Odende, co-founder of African Harvesters Talks Entrepreneurship and Her Initiative Ag4SDGs
Serah Odende is co-Founder and CEO of African Harvesters, an AgriMedia (marketing, advocacy and training) startup based in Lagos, Nigeria. She has years of experience working directly with critical stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem focusing on Agriculture and SDGs, policy advocacy, research, training and community development. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she talks about her entrepreneurship journey and initiative Ag4SDGs, and more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about African Harvesters and the gap it’s filling?
Serah: African Harvesters is an agribusiness hub for agricultural stakeholders across the African agribusiness value chains (farm to table). We fill the information gap in the industry, we agvocate youth engagement and investment in Agriculture, we also agvocate for women inclusion in Agribusiness.
Alaba: What sparked the interest?
Serah: Wow! I would say unemployment and passion for food security. I was a graduate out of the university searching for a job and I got an opportunity to work with an agribusiness association, that’s where was my interest in Agriculture rose.
Alaba: Could you share some of your challenges and how you’re navigating them?
Serah: Challenges are milestones to be crushed! As an organization, our major challenge is getting quality human resource as our volunteers. We resolved the challenge by giving incentives to our volunteers across Africa.
Alaba: How does Agriculture interact with SDG goals?
Serah: The main SDG that is Agriculture inclined is the SDG2 which is zero hunger. Zero hunger basically means no hunger. For this SDG to be achieved by 2030, this means that there would be no hunger as the case may be. For this to be achieved climate smart agriculture needs to be upheld which is SDG 14, gender equality and women inclusion in agricultural decisions which is SDG 10 and 5 respectively.
Aquaculture needs to be explored to attain food sufficiency which is SDG 14. SDG 15 interacts with Agriculture in the aspect of land degradation, biodiversity, afforestation etc.
Alaba: The Covid-19 pandemic has negative impact on the Agricultural value chain. What solutions will you proffer?
Serah: There should be synergy between every Agriculture stakeholders across the value chain. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the significance of synergy; government, developmental partners and private sectors needs to work together to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Alaba: Are we post Covid-19 ready and what are the prospects to look out for?
Serah: Yes we are post COVID-19 ready. As an organisation, African Harvesters has always embraced digital solutions to our operations as we are in strategic countries across Africa, the pandemic has made us to re engineer our mode of operations.
Alaba: What support do you expect from the government?
Serah: The pandemic has added to the responsibility of the government to do better. I expect the government to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Multiple taxations is not the solution.
Alaba: Could you tell us more about your initiative, Agriculture for SDGs (Ag4SDGs) and it’s impact?
Serah: Agriculture for SDGs (Ag4SDGs) is our sustainability initiative at African Harvesters, we enlighten the public on the impact of Agriculture in solving the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). We hold online sessions to share more light on the relationship Agriculture has with the SDGs. We also teach kids on sustainability, food waste, hand washing, recycling, water management among other things. We plan to expand our reach on the Ag4SDGs initiative to schools and other African countries outside Nigeria.
Alaba: What’s the future for African Harvesters?
Serah: We envision being the go to resource platform for opportunities, agribusiness happenings across Africa. We also want to open up frontiers for funding opportunities for the platform- African Harvesters.
Alaba: How are you encouraging young female entrepreneurs into the agribusiness ecosystem?
Serah: We at African Harvesters support women inclusion in Agriculture which is SDG 5 and SDG 10. We uphold gender equality, as a female founded startup we include women in all our opportunities with our developmental partners and negotiate equal benefits for our male and female beneficiaries.
B I O G R A P H Y
Serah Odende is an outstanding sustainability development advocate with experience in SDGs 2 and 12. She is the co-Founder and CEO of African Harvesters, an AgriMedia, marketing and advocacy startup based in Lagos, Nigeria. Serah is also a reputable digital transformation consultant with experience in training, digital marketing, social media, email automation and customer experience.
Serah Odende helps organisations position their brands on traditional and digital media.
Chidi Nwaogu: Multi Award-Winning Entrepreneur Launches Global Fellowship Program for Aspiring And Early-Stage Entrepreneurs
Chidi Nwaogu, Founder Publiseer (Source: Chidi Nwaogu).
On the journey to impact over 10,000 professionals before year-end, Nigerian serial tech entrepreneur and software developer, Chidi Nwaogu, launches a global fellowship program for those passionate about solving some of the world’s most pressing problems through innovation. Savvy Fellowship is built for those who want to build their own impact-driven business but don’t know how to, or for those who own an early-stage business and want to grow and scale their impact into new markets or verticals. It is a 12 weeks e-learning, assessment, and mentorship program, where individuals learn everything from ideation to venture-scaling. After going through the 12-week program, Fellows receive a Certificate of Completion to proudly share with their professional network.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have lost their jobs and are now living in an uncertain world. I have decided to start the Savvy Fellowship, to equip passionate individuals with the necessary knowledge and skill they need to start their own impact-driven business and succeed as entrepreneurs,” says Chidi Nwaogu, co-founder at Savvy, multi-award-winning serial entrepreneur, and author of the ‘Dear Entrepreneur’ book series. “It’s no news that every day, I love sharing with others what I’ve learned from my experience as an entrepreneur, and Savvy is just an extension of that personal journey of sharing for me.
Savvy is a 12-week-long virtual fellowship program that runs throughout the year. Some of the things Savvy Fellows learn include fundraising for their business, building the right team to execute their business strategies, building buzz around their product or service, achieving product-market fit, scaling into new markets and verticals, and building customer loyalty and retention.”
Savvy Fellowship kicks off with a rigorous 12-weeks e-learning experience. Savvy Fellows get to learn how to start, build, and scale an impact venture. Using visual presentations, they get to answer all the relevant questions they need to kickstart their impact venture, gain early traction, achieve product-market fit, and scale into newer markets. Some of the things they learn during the program are ‘understanding their customer’, ‘building a product or service that effectively solves their key challenges’, and ‘effectively positioning their solution in the market.’ Savvy is for every impact entrepreneur, no matter what stage their venture is.
During the 12 weeks of learning, unlearning, and relearning, Fellows can test their understanding by taking weekly multiple-choice quizzes. Fellows use the weekly assessments to identify their strengths and weaknesses and work on improving their areas of weaknesses. While learning, Fellows are offered mentorship as well, from entrepreneurs who have built post-revenue businesses in diverse sectors, which is a great way to have a better understanding of their industry. The Savvy mentorship team includes nearly 60 changemakers from 20 countries, with a combined experience of over 250 years. Savvy also runs a peer-to-peer mentorship program that helps Fellows learn from each other, as they ask questions, and have other Fellows help answer them.
Savvy Fellowship launched on August 4, 2020, with its call for application. So far, nearly 10,000 applications from 71 countries have been received for the Savvy Fellowship program, and 1,222 Savvy Fellows (~10%) from 64 countries around the world, has been selected. The program intends to select 2,000 Fellows, so call for application is still open. There is no cohort, no application deadline, and no ethnic restriction, so you can apply today. Savvy accepts new Fellows between the ages of 18 to 40. It’s a rolling Fellowship program, so new applications are accepted, every day, year-round.
Interested individuals can apply to the Fellowship program from https://savvyfellows.com/apply/