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Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

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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. 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.

On A Research Project

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?

MariatheresaRelax : 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?

MariatheresaOne word: “Asante” — thank you

Local dish: “Rice and Fish — Wali na samaki”

Holiday spot: Zanzibar

Also Read: Interview With Oyetola Oduyemi On The END Fund, Impact Philanthropy And Sustainability in Africa

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)

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Up Close & Personal with Phillip Scott, Founder of YouTube’s Most Watched Black News Channel

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Phillip Scott, Founder at The African Diaspora News Network (Source: Kellen Coleman)

Phillip Scott also known as Phil by his audience is a Texas native graduate with a Bachelors in Theology. Throughout his life, he has amassed a diverse following where he has successfully delivered messages of inspiration, knowledge, and optimism with a realist point of view. The African Diaspora News Network he has created is a daily YouTube program on multiple channels with various contributors whose mission is to inform, inspire, and entertain his listeners with engaging discussions on current events. Phil is a Husband and Father of four children. In this interview with Kellen Coleman, Phil talked about his entrepreneurship journey, business and life as an African in the Diaspora. Excerpt.

 

Kellen: You started YouTube as a hobby and for free for years while having a job and a family. Did you ever imagine it would have blossomed into being what you have now?

Phillip: No, it wasn’t in my mind that our platform would grow into what you see today. I knew we would grow if I would be open to new ideas but not at this level.

Kellen: Numbers show you are the most subscribed to Black News network on YouTube, does YouTube give you any special privileges or awards?

Phillip: We have received a Silver Play Button award for obtaining 100K subscribers and a Gold Play Button award for obtaining 1M subscribers. Anyone that hit those levels of subscribers can obtain those awards. But an award directed at being a successful Black platform. No, I haven’t had that type of recognition.

Kellen: With your new app and website it appears your messages are more direct and uncensored did you feel you were being silenced on other social media platforms?

Phillip: Social media platforms aren’t what they used to be. Back when I started as long as you didn’t use racial slurs, post violence or do something bad to children, you were fine online. Today social media companies are heavily censored and at the end of the day it’s their platforms. I felt we need our own place to speak where no one can remove our opinions.

Kellen: It’s said your content can be seen on various networks including Roku, Itunes, and others around the world, how do you keep track?

Phillip: We try to keep up by checking our various networks for the analytics just to get a scope of what countries and demographics are consuming our content.

Kellen: Why do you think your channel is so successful, and what do you do that others aren’t?

Phillip: I believe our success comes from taking many risks. Some people aren’t willing to invest money or risk failing. I also believe our success comes from having the proper team as well. As you grow your team is very important in helping you achieve the goals at hand. We also made sure to dedicate to a daily show and being at the same level as mainstream media platforms.

Kellen: African based news networks struggle to get the audience you have, what advice would you have for them and would you consider partnering?

Phillip: I would say for African channels to target a younger audience. The African continent average age is 25. Younger people are more on smartphones and care about modern Africa. Young African people care about foreign nations taking the resources for free, they care about their politics and want to live no different than the rest of the world. You can’t get a young African audience focusing on what the older generation cares about.

Kellen: You have come a long way from filming in the bathroom and kitchen table, you have a beautiful studio setup would you encourage others to invest in their studio?

Phillip: I always say that no one will invest in you until you invest in yourself first. Always be willing to take a risk by investing your time, money and partnering with others. I felt that having a studio similar to what you will see on television would bring our platform respect. I have achieved the respect due to our reporting and efforts.

Kellen: How has your message been received by Africans in the states and Africans on the continent?

Phillip: Yes our message is received on both continents. We made sure to also employ our sisters and brothers from the continent as well to help us.

Kellen: What can Africans on the continent do to support your network?

Phillip: The best way to support us is to watch all our content and share it with 5 people they know.

Kellen: Your company is registered in Kenya, but you have Kenyan and Nigerian in your DNA any plans on having a company in Nigeria, and what can Nigeria do to help you with that?

Phillip: I plan on visiting Nigeria when international travel opens back up. I would also consider having a studio in Nigeria if everything works right with a great team in place.

Kellen: You have several contributors from around the world, more than some larger networks twice your size, how do you recruit and manage not just personalities but payroll?

Phillip: I can’t give our secret to picking people. But I will say I have a great idea on who would fit well for our platform. Some people could be great but not for our platform. We select people based on previous work and work ethic.

Kellen: Do you see yourself living full time in Africa, and if so which country(s)?

Phillip: My goal is to live on the African continent  at least 80% of the year. Having business I will still have to travel to the US. As for country, I’m still deciding at the moment.

Kellen: What impact do you think cryptocurrency and NFTS will have on your business?

Phillip: When it comes to cryptocurrency it’s new so for us we will always move with the times. Maybe with time we can use cryptocurrency as a payment method.

Kellen: How important is it to have a great wife in doing business?

Phillip: I can tell you from experience that a woman can take you high as the heavens or take you to the pit of hell. As a man a wife that’s a blessing also will help you be successful. Having a supportive spouse makes the hard jobs easy and also help come up with ideas for growth.

 

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Meet Riaan Rautenbach Changing the Future of moving Cargo, using Cloud-Based and Machine Learning Technology

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Riaan Rautenbach, Founder & CEO at LIVE FR8™ (Source: Riaan Rautenbach)

Riaan Rautenbach is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of South Africa based tech startup LIVE FR8™. A disruptive game changing cloud based App that gives solutions to existing problems in the transport and logistics industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Riaan shares his entrepreneurship journey, challenges, impacts and successes of the App. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you us briefly tell me about LIVE FR8™ and the problems it’s solving?

Riaan: LIVE FR8™ is a South African start-up that offers Cargo Suppliers and Transporters improved low cost logistics services using Cloud Technology. The App can be used on any Smart Device. Cargo Suppliers add loads and Transporters find loads on the App. Cargo Suppliers and Transporters connect using the Cloud. Cargo Supplier lists the loads by weight, category, source address and destination, on the database. The algorithm helps Transporters to search for specific loads in the specified area, thereby turning empty loads into full loads. The Transporter nominates the price to move the cargo to the destination. The Transporter only pays a small fee to LIVE FR8™ once a load has been obtained successfully. The Supplier and the Transporter transact directly with one another, and rate each other. The continuous rating system will remove dishonest, corrupt, non-performing and non-competitive role players. Transparency will drive improved performance and cost effective logistics operations.

Alaba: Why did you start your business?

Riaan: After 30 years’ hard work and experience in transportation of goods by road, sourcing return loads, making deliveries on time, determining whereabouts of Cargo in transit in 5 African countries, I came up with this idea. With my experience in cost accounting, as a marketing manager, financial manager and general manager, I have identified problems in the transport industry. I have spent a lot of time thinking of and finding a solution. I developed an App that addresses the various problems and challenges in the Transport industry: improved communication; finding Cargo geographically in real-time; monitoring and managing dispatch staff, controllers, drivers and Cargo in transit. Reducing communication costs; no expensive programs; no costly servers; no monthly fees; no broker fees; no bidding platform but a closed quotation system. Reducing empty trip costs that results in expensive transport rates, reducing transport pollution and a rating system indicating the performance of Cargo Suppliers and Transporters.

Alaba: What has been the impact of leveraging technology in running your business?

Riaan: The business runs remotely, from any location with internet access. The business model has immense scalability and flexibility. Within 7 months, the App was active in 57 countries. Overhead costs are drastically reduced due to the technology LIVE FR8 App utilises, with no offices or expensive servers required. Technology is the future and using disruptive fourth industrial revolution technology which is Cloud-native and functional is exciting and will lead to transformation of the transport industry.

Alaba: What is one of the biggest lessons you have learnt on your business journey?

Riaan: We have learnt that our product, as a world first “Cloud Technology” App for Logistics is more difficult than expected to market in an existing resistant market. Training is an essential part of our marketing.

Alaba: Kindly share of the impact and success of the App?

Riaan: LIVE FR8™ empowers entrepreneurs in Africa and is available in 19 African countries. It levels the playing field for smaller Transporters anywhere in Africa, lowers operational costs for established businesses and empowers them to compete on equal footing. It transforms anyone with access to an electronic device, into a logistics manager. The App brings a huge competitive advantage to everyone who uses the App. It also empowers isolated communities in Africa to put food on the table by coordinating their logistics on their mobile phones. Though there have been many challenges I believe we will soon make a breakthrough in the market and more people will comprehend how much they can benefit from using the App to improve logistics processes, reduce costs, increase vehicle utilisation and drastically reduce pollution from carbon emissions.

Riaan Rautenbach

Alaba: What’s the future for LIVE FR8 in terms of its expansion to other African and International markets?

Riaan: Africa: LIVE FR8 will be available in all African countries by July 2021. LIVE FR8 is currently available in 19 African countries: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius (Including Reunion), Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

International; LIVE FR8 is available in the following countries outside Africa; America, Australia, All European Union countries, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Turkey, Canada, The United Kingdom.

Alaba: Could you share your thoughts on the current state of Logistics in Africa, and where you see it in five years?

Riaan: Logistics face many challenges in Africa such as: Inadequate communication; Border congestions; inadequate road and rail infrastructure; old technologies; trade relations between countries. In five years most of the above, I believe, will be improved by Africa. I am positive, because there are already projects, led by African governments, authorities, entrepreneurs and private sectors to improve all of the above mentioned challenges. LIVE FR8 can play a vital role with its low cost communication between Cargo Suppliers and Transporters. Loads are exposed for free to Transporters, and Transporters can find loads with a geographic search using little data.

Alaba: How can South Africa support small businesses now and beyond?

Riaan: Smaller businesses help to create and sustain jobs. Support is vital to help businesses gain revenue and stay operational. Small-business owners value relationships they have with their customers and need the support of local consumers. As it may be more of a challenge for small businesses to stay relevant, they continuously need to work on adding new products/developing their products and providing new benefits for their customers. This is good as it generates healthy competition with their larger competitors. Small businesses tend to be more innovative as they constantly need to find new ways to sell goods and service. By supporting small businesses you are also supporting your local community to stimulate the economy.

Alaba: Any advice for young African entrepreneurs in tech and logistics?

Riaan: All young African entrepreneurs must believe in themselves and never give up. You can find solutions, keep asking questions about current affairs, search and find answers on how current affairs can be improved. Believe in Africa with all its valuable resources. All economic activities can be improved by young entrepreneurs who seek and find solutions using technology to improve supply chains, transport, more efficient low cost ways of communication and moving goods to people, factories, markets and harbours for export. Africa is the future!

 

B I O G R A P H Y

Riaan Rautenbach started working as a clerk, then became a learner coder, thereafter I was an Accountant. I then started part time studies at Unisa while working. I was later promoted to Financial Manager and for 4 years I was a Sales and Marketing Manager. I worked as a General Manager in Maize and Wheat Mills and a Poly woven bag factory. I lived and worked in five African Countries: Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia. I traded with Angola, DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.

Visit LIVE FR8™

 

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Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes: Changing the face of investing in Africa

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Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes is the Founder and Managing Partner of Aruwa Capital Management, one of the few women owned and led growth private equity funds closing the gender gaps in Africa. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Adesuwa shares her career-path from working with leading global financial institutions to becoming an investor, how she’s  closing the investment gender gap with Aruwa Capital, challenges, impacts, as well their plans for 2021. Excerpt.

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about your journey up till now?

Adesuwa: I was born in Lagos, educated in the United Kingdom for most of my school years and worked in the City of London for some of the leading global financial institutions including J.P. Morgan. I moved back to Lagos, bringing back the skills I learnt to help rebuild and impact society. I am the founder of one of the few women owned, led growth equity and gender lens funds in Africa, Aruwa Capital Management. We invest in early stage growth companies in rapidly growing sectors that are scalable and relatively untapped. I am one of the youngest female private equity fund managers in Africa at 31 years old. I am an entrepreneur, CEO, mother, investor and women’s empowerment advocate.

My journey has been one of focus, determination, purpose, impact and resilience and I hope it can inspire and motivate others to go after their goals.

Alaba: At what point did you decide to launch Aruwa Capital? Tell me more about the fund and its focus?

Adesuwa: Having spent the last 12 years in investment banking and private equity at firms such as J.P. Morgan, TLG Capital & Syntaxis Capital Africa. I launched Aruwa Capital Management with my own money in Lagos in July 2019 and left the comforts of a six-figure salary, in order to make an impact in society with my skills, track record and change the narrative for women and small businesses in Africa. For me it was important to step out and launch something on my own. I wanted to make sure that through launching a fund of my own, I would be able to provide female entrepreneurs with access to capital where they otherwise traditionally wouldn’t have access due to the structural barriers that exist for any woman raising capital let alone women and people of colour. I also wanted to change the narrative for other female fund managers who may have struggled to raise capital despite their track record and expertise, by using what we achieve at Aruwa as a success story to motivate, inspire others and also make the business case to investors for investing in women.

Aruwa Capital Management is an early stage growth equity and gender lens investment fund that invests into established and rapidly growing businesses in Nigeria and Ghana that are currently overlooked by other private equity funds. Aruwa invests in businesses that either provides goods or services that cater to the untapped $15 trillion female economy or businesses that are founded or led by women or employ women in their workforce or value chain due to the increased profitability of gender diverse teams. Due to our focus on the early stage growth segment that is free of competition and our focus on showcasing the increased returns that can be generated when investing in women as consumers and entrepreneurs, we can successfully combine outsized financial returns with long lasting positive socio-economic development and women empowerment outcomes in the countries we invest in.

We not only see our gender lens investment strategy as the moral thing to do given the role women play in society and the multiplier it can have in terms of poverty alleviation for families but also because investing in women and for women has been proven to deliver outsized and superior returns. The data shows that gender balance within organizations improves profitability, reduces risks, brings diversity of thought and decision making. McKinsey estimates that if the gender gap is bridged there could be an additional $28 trillion in global GDP and shows gender diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.

BCG found that for every dollar of funding invested, start-ups founded and co-founded by women generated 2.5 time more than male-founded start-ups. The data supports that investing in women and for women, is good business and we see it as an immense, untapped opportunity that will enhance our fund returns, providing us with a competitive edge due to the limited competition. Our mission is to showcase the business case and success stories, so that other women don’t have the same challenges in raising capital that I had.

Alaba: Was it always your goal to go into investment management?

Adesuwa: Yes, I have always been interested in the financial markets and their impact on the global economy and vice versa. I studied economics in school which piqued my interest in investment banking. After graduating at the University, I landed a job in investment banking and also in private equity. During my time at the private equity firm, I made an investment in a Ugandan drugs manufacturer, which was a very attractive investment but also very significant to the country’s self-sufficiency in producing genuine medicines, a huge social impact. After this experience, my interest was cemented into impact investing and private equity and the rest as they say, is history.

Alaba: What are the challenges you face in the investment space?  Have you found it particularly difficult to succeed in this sector as a woman?

Adesuwa: One of the biggest challenges one faces in the African investment space is fundraising. On average it takes an African private equity fund 2 years to successfully raise their fund, which is ridiculous. Private equity and venture capital funds unfortunately must rely on foreign sources of capital which means there is sometimes a misconception regarding the perceived versus actual risk on the continent. When you combine this with the fact that firms owned by women and/or minorities manage just 1.3% of the $69 trillion under management by the industry, as an African woman raising an inaugural fund for Africa, it’s a steep hill to climb.

I am proud of what we have been able to achieve to date at Aruwa Capital Management despite these challenges, rather than being discouraged by the status quo, we are challenging the status quo and using our fund as an example and case study to make the business case to invest in women as fund managers, entrepreneurs, consumers and stakeholders in society. Aruwa aims to provide some concrete datapoints from its fund to showcase the immense opportunity, with the hope that other female founders within the industry have an easier fundraising journey than we did.

Alaba: Male led PE & VC firms get much more funding than their female counterparts. Do you think this is an active discrimination?

Adesuwa: Yes, I think there is bias and discrimination in the industry. Women make up just 9% of senior positions in private equity, only 2% of private equity funds globally are owned by women. Women are significantly underrepresented among the investment decision-makers at private equity and venture capital firms globally. There are not enough women as capital allocators. As mentioned above, white men control 98.7% of AUM in the industry when women make up 50% of the population, this is not right. Aruwa is one of a handful of women owned and led private equity funds in the whole of Africa with 1.2 billion people across 54 countries.

The International Finance Corporation released a report investigating the effect of gender balance in private equity and venture capital.  One of the key findings of the report is that private equity and venture capital funds with gender-balanced senior investment teams generated 20 percent higher returns compared with funds that did not have a gender balance. So, even though gender balanced teams with women investment managers outperform and generate more returns, there is still this imbalance amongst capital allocators.

Alaba: Why do you think it’s so much harder for women to raise funds?

Adesuwa: Women face several systemic issues that prevents them from raising capital and scaling their businesses. Women make up half of the population but only represent less than 40% of GDP. I believe that there are unconscious biases female entrepreneurs face, they are often underestimated and not taken seriously despite their track record or abilities. Access to capital is real challenge for female entrepreneurs. Africa has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world but only 2% of them have access to capital due to these unconscious biases.

Research has found that there is deep seated unconscious bias within the finance, venture capital and private equity industry. The language used to describe male and female entrepreneurs is significantly different and these differences have immense consequences when women are seeking capital and for society in general. For example, research from the Harvard Business Review showed that a male entrepreneur can be described as “young and promising” but a female entrepreneur is described as “young and inexperienced”. London Business School also showed that female founders were far more likely to be asked “preventative” questions about their businesses that emphasized risk and downside.

The men, on the other hand, were asked more “promotion” questions focusing on the “upsides and potential gains” of their businesses, a line of questioning that resulted in six times as much funding on average for men versus women. In 2018, Boston Consulting Group (“BCG”) also found a clear gender gap in business funding, finding that investments in businesses founded or co-founded by women averaged $935,000, less than half of the average of $2.1 million received by men.

These unconscious biases are a fundamental cause of the gender gaps we see in male versus female entrepreneurship.

Alaba: Despite these challenges, have you had any successes so far? How does your company measure its impact?

Adesuwa: Yes, we are proud to be deploying capital from our $20 million fund investing in Nigeria and Ghana. We have managed to mobilise private commercial capital into our fund both from Nigeria but also globally. We have also made a very successful investment in Nigeria which is a local manufacturer of personal hygiene products for women and girls, babies and over 65s. We can showcase from our existing portfolio the seamless intersection of strong financial return, social impact and women empowerment through this investment.

In terms of impact, we are very intentional about measuring social impact from our investments in terms of jobs created. We think private equity investment can be a huge driver in helping to improve employment within Nigeria and across Africa. In addition, in line with our gender lens mandate, we also measure the impact our investment has in terms of increasing the number of women in senior management, in the workforce, in supply chains and on the board. Before we make an investment, we incorporate our standard ESG and gender questions into our due diligence questionnaire to understand what is the basis that we’re starting from across these aspects. We work with entrepreneurs that are willing to institutionalise their businesses and incorporate best in-class governance, ESG standards, and their willingness to address gender imbalances within their companies if there are any.

Alaba:  What is the future for Aruwa Capital? Any project in 2021?

Adesuwa: The future for Aruwa Capital is to continue to showcase the untapped potential that exists when women are capital allocators. Showing through our investment strategy the seamless intersection we have between a strong financial return, social impact and women’s empowerment. In 2021, we are focused on deploying more capital so that we can have more success stories in our portfolio. We are working on attractive investments in agribusiness, technology and health care.

Alaba: What is your take on Cryptocurrency and its regulation in Nigeria?

Adesuwa: I think cryptocurrency is a great invention, it’s a new type of money and a store of value that has been working for the last decade or so and is gaining significant popularity. Bitcoin is up almost 400% since the rally in October 2020 and is proving more and more popular as a digital currency. The lack of regulation and government control is what has made bitcoin popular, building on the fact that it cannot be manipulated or controlled as a currency.

The ban on cryptocurrency in Nigeria was surprising as we haven’t seen any similar moves anywhere else in the world by any other government. I think the CBN’s position in 2017 whereby it warned financial institutions transacting in bitcoin that they were doing so at their own risk, was a better position than an outright ban. We can’t be seen as a country that bans innovation or disruptive technologies, we need to have a free market to innovate and thrive in order to continue to attract foreign direct investment.

Alaba: How do you manage your work-life balance? How do you relax?

Adesuwa: There is never a balance, as a wife, mother, CEO, investor, entrepreneur and a woman on a mission to change the face of investing in Africa, there isn’t much time to relax. However, I think it’s important to have a supportive family, my husband and immediate family make it possible for me to juggle everything successfully. I also enjoy cooking, playing sports and travelling whenever possible.

Alaba: Describe yourselves in three words? Why?

Adesuwa: Driven, resilient, intentional.

I don’t take no for an answer; I am very focused on achieving my goals and I am also intentional about having an impact on society and being the change, I want to see. It would have been much easier for me to continue working in a big institution, having the security of a monthly pay check and all the associated “luxuries”, but I wanted to make an impact on society and I will, by God’s grace, see my mission fulfilled which will impact many lives and leave a legacy my children can be proud of.

Biography

Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes is the Founder and Managing Partner of Aruwa Capital Management, one of the few women owned and led private equity funds in Africa investing into untapped investment opportunities in West Africa in the small to lower mid-market. She has over 12 years of investment banking and private equity experience from top global institutions. Prior to founding Aruwa Capital, she spent five years as Managing Partner of Syntaxis Capital Africa, a provider of growth capital to SMEs in Nigeria and across Sub Saharan Africa. Syntaxis Africa was part of Syntaxis Capital, a private equity fund active in other emerging markets with $300 million in AUM from global institutional investors. At Syntaxis Africa, she led transactions totalling more than $200 million across SSA.

Prior to co-founding Syntaxis Africa in 2014, Adesuwa was in the Leveraged Finance and M&A teams at J.P. Morgan in London, where she was involved in $5.6 billion worth of transactions across emerging markets including Nigeria. Prior to J.P. Morgan, Adesuwa worked in Africa-focused PE fund, TLG Capital as an Investment Professional, involved in transactions across Anglophone Africa including a very successful investment in Uganda, where she personally invested and generated a very attractive return which enabled her to launch her own investment fund. She was named as an Agent of Impact in 2019 by Impact Alpha and recognised as one of the Top 35 Women Moving Africa Forward for her commitment to gender equality in private equity and across the society through Aruwa Capital’s investments.

She started her career at Lehman Brothers and holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Bristol. She currently sits on several boards in Nigeria across agriculture, manufacturing and hospitality sectors. She is married with a son and enjoys cooking, tennis and travelling.

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