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)
Joan Nwosu- helping entrepreneurs and corporate professionals create meaningful lives
Joan Nwosu is a serial entrepreneur, business consultant and career transition coach based in Toronto, Canada. She is the CEO of Joan Nwosu Coaching and My SoftLanding Canada, both birthed from a deep desire to help people, using her life and career experience over 20 years.
Born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria, where she spent the earlier part of her childhood. Upon completing high school, she moved to the United Kingdom in 1997, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Internet Computing at London Southbank University. Her journey as a career woman also emanated from the UK, where she spent a considerable amount of the first 35 years of her life. In those years, she shuffled between the UK and Nigeria.
Joan would say, “In the era where I grew up, the societal norm was to get educated, find a job, climb up the ranks, work till the age of 65, and then retire. I followed this trend and became an overachiever, often transitioning through different careers and industries.”
In a bid to find fulfilment, she said “I explored roles in Management, Consulting, Marketing, Communications, Business Development, Operations, and even Artist Management, amongst others, all to no avail. Although I enjoyed the human relations aspect of my career, some of these environments were toxic for me, and I was never satisfied. After working 20 jobs and making 6 career changes across 3 continents, I quit.”
While transitioning through careers, she noticed the void of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfilment in many professionals including herself, which led to the birth of her coaching business, Joan Nwosu Coaching (JNC). Founded in 2019, JNC is an organization that helps corporate professionals and independent entrepreneurs start, grow, and scale purpose-driven businesses they are passionate about. She said, “In just over a year of operation, we’ve helped hundreds of professionals. My experience in different fields plays a vital part in the execution of my role as the Lead Business Coach at JNC.”
In her words, “I have always had the entrepreneurial drive in me having ventured into entrepreneurship at the age of 19, and launched a total of six businesses since then; a bakery, lifestyle business, political consulting firm, an NGO, coaching practice, and an immigration consulting firm, of which the last two are still in operation today.”
In 2015, she moved to Canada and two years later, founded My SoftLanding Canada, an organization focused on helping new immigrants to comfortably settle in Canada. Today, My SoftLanding Canada has helped hundreds of Canadian immigrants transition safely and get good jobs quickly.
Over the years, she has embraced Public Speaking as an avenue to express herself, amplify her voice and message. Again, her vast professional experience has contributed immensely to her success in inspiring and motivating people through seminars, webinars, conferences, events, and other platforms.
Entrepreneurship fuels her desire to make a difference in the world through social impact. According to her, identifying voids, proffering solutions, and providing value is king.
Her purpose is to help people live full lives and not just exist. To live life on their terms doing only what they love while making a difference in the world. She believes everyone deserves to have this regardless of age, background, or environment, you too can have the life of your dreams.
Chynna Morgan – helping brands create memorable experiences using sound + music with GIF Out Loud
Chynna Morgan is the Founder at GIF Out Loud, an experiential technology startup that creates unique experiences and allows customers to spontaneously create and share your brand, sound and music. Chynna shares her story with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online.
As a young girl, I have always been a dreamer- dreaming of ideas that I can bring to life to help or shape the world that I live in. Somehow, I always knew I would be an entrepreneur, but never in a million years did I see myself in tech. I like to say; I didn’t look for tech, tech found me. In the middle of finishing my master’s in healthcare management, I suddenly had the idea to start my tech company (GIF Out Loud). I noticed the lack of shareable experiences that amplified a brand’s voice or sound that fans or consumers could interact with and share during events or brand activations.
As a professional actress, and coming from a family of musicians- I have always understood the importance of creating a storytelling experience, and how it connects with people on a deeper level especially using your voice or music. Since my childhood, I saw first-hand, the power and healing that music could bring to the world, just by listening and watching my family perform.
Historically, as an African American, music has always been a pillar of healing, whether that was bringing us through slavery or bringing us together. Because music is so powerful, I always wondered why brands were not creating full experiences to amplify their brand’s sound while simultaneously capturing analytics and data that they need, to stay in touch with their target consumer. This is why I created GIF Out Loud, we work
with brands and music artists to develop interactive, digital, and shareable experiences using music and sound during events and brand activations.
Since I started my company, we have partnered and worked with big brands such as Shell and Pennzoil, and we are currently working on some cool partnerships in the music, retail and sports industries. My goal is to partner with brands in all types of industries to create unforgettable experiences and memories that consumers would want to share using the power of sound.
When I started to immerse myself in the tech industry, I quickly realized that this space was not intended for people like me, but it was my job to be the one to help elevate this space and let our faces and brilliance be seen. I am looking forward to creating more opportunities for black people in tech and how I can tap into my heritage and create opportunities in Africa. This will help amplify Africa’s brands and most importantly, Africa’s voice all over the world.
I am more than ecstatic to be on this journey, and this only the beginning.
Visit: GIF Out Loud
Save App: Helping you share moments, send and receive distress alerts real-time
Samuel Thierry Njock is the Founder of Save, an App that helps you locate in real time, share moments, send and receive distress alerts from your family and friends. Samuel shares with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, more about Save, what sparked the interest and the long term goals. Excerpts.
About Save App
Save App helps you locate in real time your loved ones, share moments, send and receive distress alerts.
Save is a great location sharing app for your family and friends. It’s now more easy and simple to know where the people who matter most to you are in real time, and if they are safe, even when they are far away. With Save, see in real time where your loved ones, and get easily to them, and share what you do through pictures and videos.
Save also offers health and safety features. You can:
– Display the closest hospitals and pharmacies from your location
– Send distress alerts to your loved ones in case of car crash, car breakdown, and insecurity
– Receive in real time data about health and safety issues (dangerous areas, low network in an area, other health and safety recommendations or warnings).
Since the covid19 pandemic started, we have added real time data about the spread for every country in the world, with protective measures against the virus, for users to keep them on mind all day long.
Here are your first steps on Save:
– Invite your loved ones on Save, then add them to your group
– See in real time each other’s location on the map
– Join easily each other with roads
– See live pictures and videos of your loved ones, share yours with them.
The Save project arises from the fact that Samuel works in the Northern Cameroon at the beginning of the Boko Haram crisis. His relatives are constantly worried about his safety, and his girlfriend was living in Yaoundé. There was sometimes no way of knowing in real time whether she was doing well or not, whether she was in the office or at home. Samuel then thought of creating an app, which would allow him to share his position with his relatives, publish photos and videos of what they are doing in real time, and send alerts in the event of an accident, insecurity, car breakdown.
Save has two major long-term goals:
– Allow individuals to navigate more easily and more simply towards each other, especially in the event of a perilous situation such as an accident, an insecurity problem
– Makepeopleenjoy real time location sharing: make it interesting enough for them to forget the tracking part, which most scares them as soon as they hear real time location sharing.
– Samuel Thierry Njock: Founder of Save, a 32 years old Cameroonian and holds a license degree in Management and a Masters in Finance. During his first professional experience in a brewing company, he was passionate about information systems. He is strongly influenced by Steve Jobs, who thought that technology should make it possible to do more simply what constitutes the daily life of men: to move from a place to another, to listen to music, to use a phone, etc. Samuel is great at conception and simple problem modeling, and he’s passionate about design.
– Bertrand Evina: with a master’s degree in international marketing, Bee as he is called joined Save. He attended with Samuel between 2000 and 2004. Passionate about marketing, he is at the origin of all our campaigns, and manages our online community
There are also people who intervene on an ad hoc basis, such as Thierry, the graphic designer, Jef and Stéphane, who lend a hand in development.
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