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)
Interview with Monica Sekhmet Grant, President of Young Boss Media Inc.
Monica Sekhmet Grant is the true definition of a Young Boss. She’s been employing workers, building organizations, and producing her own products since her college days. A native of Ypsilanti Michigan but raised in North Augusta South Carolina. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Monica shares her entrepreneurship journey, humanitarian initiatives, book launch and the future for Young Boss Media Inc. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you tell us about Young Boss Media Inc and the gap its filling?
Monica: Young Boss Media Inc. produces media that will empower under-represented communities to gain ownership over their image, voice and economic & political future. Hollywood and broadcast TV are under-represented in gender, age, ethnicity and sexual status. This lack of representation excludes certain groups from obtaining information and resources that have the power to enhance their ability to thrive in a challenging economy. Young Boss Media is on a mission to change that!
Our mission is to produce high-quality content that engages under-represented communities while building a multi-media network dedicated to social impact influencers and to cultivate an online and offline community of innovation, artistry, entrepreneurship and activism.
Alaba: What sparked your interest into the media space and how did you come up with the name?
Monica: By trade I was a community and labor organizer and I’ve always had a passion for economics. Around the age of 10, I started asking “Why are some people rich, while others are poor.” In America, the Old Boss is the plantation owner, the factory manager, the 9-5 hustle that drained your energy and only gave you enough money to make it back to work the next day. The Old Boss in media was the White Blonde Face with White Blonde stories that did not reflect my community but still dominated what we saw on television.
In 2015, I started producing shows in New York City for another entrepreneur name Bonnie Bruderer. I learned how to build a media network from her. On March 22, 2017, I launched my first talk show under Young Boss Media called Master Plan and the rest is history. We’ve grown into a global media network with 30 producers, hosts and interns producing content around the clock.
Alaba: Since the launch of your platform, what are your achievements? And how do you measure impact?
Monica: The greatest achievement is seeing my people happy. I get calls, texts, and emails everyday saying how powerful our shows are. I strive to make my ancestors happy. If they are pleased, then I am rich.
Alaba: Do you think luck played a role in your success story?
Monica: I got lucky being born in America, that’s about it. I worked for everything else.
Alaba: Did you venture alone? What was the hardest part in the early stages of the company’s growth?
Monica: Young Boss Media has 30 host, producers, and interns now but in the beginning, it was just me. I wanted to partner with people because that’s who I am by nature, but many people proved that they weren’t ready for the long-haul. I don’t believe in the get rich quick hustle. You put in the work every day, doing work that you love to do and then you sleep with a smile. That’sit. The rewards will come.
I learned to do things on my own and to trust my own vision. If I wanted something to be done, it’s up to me to do it. I prayed for the right people to come into my life and eventually they all did and at the right time too. I don’t’ let people stress me. I trust my instinct and if it’s not the right vibe, I keep it moving.
Alaba: How are you navigating the impact of COVID-19 in your industry? Are you post COVID-19 ready?
Monica: I love it, everything is virtual, and everyone finally sees the importance of independent media. It feels like I have been preparing for this moment since the 2008 recession and now that it’s here I’m calm cool and in control of my destiny. God bless all of those impacted negatively by Corona. We must remain safe and follow God.
Alaba: What is your plan for young media entrepreneurs especially the female entrepreneurs in terms of support?
Monica: Young Boss Media Activist Institute is a non-profit organization focused on increasing social justice activism and entrepreneurship via media training. We allow young people of color to produce TV shows, build websites and work behind the scenes of Young Boss Media. I teach our students how to be independent and not look for a job but instead they can be the one to create opportunities for themselves. I don’t baby my students. They must work for their respect. Entrepreneurs don’t take days off. They know that this is not a hobby. My students learn how to build an empire.
I give freely to all of my students regardless of gender or ethnicity but based on who they are I tell them the truth about what to expect in this industry. Women must speak up and not wait to be called on. They must learn to stop doubting themselves and to accept failure as a beautiful part of the process. Men must learn when to ask for input and not think that everything is about them. Every industry is becoming more women dominate, so they learn how to play well with others by working with me. For all of my students they must know that they can’t fool me. I’ve lived a full life and I know when you’re scamming and scheming.
Alaba: What’s the future for Young Boss Media Inc?
Monica: 24-hour programming of globally produced continent. We are looking for producers and hosts for our African initiative Young Boss Africa. I am also launching my 4th book, Mind Your Business and Prosper on August 17th, 2020. You can order it on YoungBossMedia.com
Alaba: Can you tell us about your humanitarian activities and your new book?
Monica: Humanitarian Activities:
Young Boss Media Activist Institute
Fight for Fight Campaign
Black Lives Matter
Climate Reality Corps
Organizing a Pan-African Credit Union in the Bronx
Organizing daycare workers, domestic workers, EMS workers and taxi drives into a labor union.
Mind Your Business and Prosper is the blueprint for business success. Written for students transitioning into adulthood, struggling to find their identity but are driven to have their voice heard and make an impact on the world. Monica proves that you don’t have to wait until you’re 50 years old to be successful. Instead, you can live an amazing fulfilled life right now.
Global Release is August 17, 2020.
Alaba: When are you coming to Africa and where would you love to visit?
Monica: As soon as possible. My DNA traces back to Kenya and Nigeria so those are first on my list. I also love and adore Senegal. I must get to South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and Mauritius as well. But honestly,I’ve seen so many beautiful pictures of Africa that I’m ready to spend most of my time country-hopping for the next year or two, recording and documenting my experience.
Alaba: How do you relax and fun fact about you?
Monica: I spend quality with my family, eating laughing and going to the beach. I enjoy talking to my Vice President Raphael about business ideas and him fully understanding my vision. We can’t take the people in our life for granted. They are special.
Fun Fact: I taught myself how to play the saxophone in college.
B I O G R A P H Y
Monica Sekhmet Grant is the true definition of a Young Boss. She’s been employing workers, building organizations, and producing her own products since her college days. A native of Ypsilanti Michigan but raised in North Augusta South Carolina, Monica studied business at Delaware State University because she wanted to understand how some people continued to get richer while others remained poor.
After college, Monica moved to New York City and made a career of empowering Black and Brown communities through life coaching and community organizing. “One builds personal power while the other build collective power. Each one is vital and should not be isolated.” Monica is an advocate for economic justice and fairness, for all communities especially her own. She believes that most men and women of African descent naturally desire to live in safe prosperous communities that support economic growth.
She has campaigned for workers’ rights with the Fight For $15 Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, and AFSCME International Labor Union. On March 22, 2017, Monica launched what would become the most rewarding project of her life, Young Boss Media. An idea to interview entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities quickly expanded into a television network consisting of young Black producers and hosts that never believed they would one day be on TV. Monica believes in giving people the opportunity to produce media that will uplift their community, even if their community is not hers.
Monica is currently based in New York City. On June 19, 2020, she announced the release date of her autobiographical, self-help workbook, Mind Your Business and Prosper: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Being Successful. Her goal is to provide mentorship to new entrepreneurs in a down to Earth manner that wasn’t available when she was a student. Mind Your Business and Prosper will launch globally on August 17, 2020. Young Boss Media is also expanding into Africa with Young Boss Africa, an initiative to highlight innovation among youth on the African continent.
Meseret Haileyesus – The Ethiopian Canadian Women Leader Creating Impact
Meseret Haileyesus, founder of the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment (Image Credit: Meseret Haileyesus)
Meseret Haileyesus is a social justice advocate, change-maker, intersectional feminist, and entrepreneur. Founder of the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment (CCFWE) with a keen interest in addressing systemic barriers and other challenges that prevent women and girls from fully realizing their human rights. CCFWE is the only Canadian Nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of economic abuse and transforming responses to it.
Meseret works to influence public policy decisions that support domestic violence survivors to make a successful transition to economic independence. She seeks to fill the gaps for the development of new approaches to address economic injustice by reviewing existing systems, policies, and procedures in Canada. The Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment (CCFWE) highlights the issue of economic injustice through responding to national policy consultations and working with individuals in local and national government.
Born and raised in Ethiopia and now living in Canada, for decades she has worked tirelessly to advocate for women and child health around the world as well as economic empowerment for women and marginalized peoples. With a background in, midwifery, economics, global health, and Aromatherapy, she drives social change by advocating for high-quality and accessible sexual and reproductive healthcare for women on a global scale, with a goal of ending gender-based violence.
Her passion for gender equality has led her to spend over 16 years, working with various national and international non-profit organizations on dozens of projects centered on issues of HIV/AIDS prevention, poverty reduction, sexual and reproductive health right, quality of maternal and newborn health, and building community capacity to take action to advance social justice initiatives.
Past community involvement includes the Alberta Community Council for HIV/AIDS, Alberta Health Services, University of Alberta, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, Laurentian University, Canadian Network for Society Network, Women in Edmonton, World Bank Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs & UN Women- Women’s Economic Empowerment, UNICEF, African Medical Research Foundation, Jpiego- affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, Johns Snow Institute and Ethioaid Canada.
Meseret is a member of multiple UN and World Health Organization programs, where she produces strategies to reinforce the reproductive health components for health sector reform programs in developing countries. She serves as an ambassador for World Pulse, a global network to amplify women as well as an ambassador for the RHEALYZ Global Empowerment Initiative Africa, a Nigerian organization that helps individuals, families, and organizations achieve Sustainable Development Goals. She is also President for Global Humanitarian Community, and Director for End FGM Canada Network.
Prior to relocating to Canada in, Meseret works on Maternal and child health programs particularly on Maternal Child Health and reproductive health rights, where she had the profound pleasure of assisting many marginalized pregnant African women through the amazing journey of pregnancy, childbirth, and new motherhood in Ethiopia. These experiences combined with her lifelong commitment to gender equality and women’s health and well-being led Meseret to found Maternity Today, an international non-profit organization that strengthens women and child health through superior advocacy, research, and education in developing countries.
Beyond her social justice and public health involvement, Meseret is also the owner of Nacre Organics, and an advocate with David Suzuki Foundation for the promotion of nontoxic green personal care products, “biodegradable plastic-waste free planet” and zero-waste packaging.
As a health and wellness industry entrepreneur, she is also a program advisor at Algonquin College’s Esthetician and Spa program. Nacre Organics is plant-based wellness and lifestyle brand she launched with her daughter that helps protect, elevate, refresh, relax, moisturize and groom the body and mind. Meseret’s mission is to create exquisite skincare, drawing upon her knowledge of Clinical Aromatherapy and natural skincare formulation, vitality, and wellness.
Nacre organics was born out of her determination to formulate and hand produce skincare with love, made with the finest, raw ingredients for radiant, blissfully youthful, healthy skin. She was also a co-founder of Novigo Natural Skin Care. A percentage of the profits are donated to support domestic violence survivors.
Meseret was named one of the 100 Most Accomplished Black Canadian Women and nominees for several awards. She is a proud mother of one beautiful daughter who inspires and motivates her every day.
Viero: A SaaS Platform Enabling Entrepreneurs Create Food Delivery App Without Code In 60 Seconds
Viero & Zistify Founders, Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude
Launching a food delivery start-up requires an entrepreneur to manage 4 aspects; Restaurants, Delivery Agents, Customers, and the most costly of them all, an application. Building a food delivery application can cost up to $60 000. There are also additional costs that need to be paid on a monthly basis to maintain and improve the application. “This is a major barrier to entry into the food delivery industry in Africa” said Basheer Phiri, the founder and CEO of Viero.
“Because of these high costs, we see a lot of food delivery Startups all over Africa serving the urban market, because it is big, and has enough customers to cover the development and maintenance costs and make a profit.” Basheer believes that food delivery Startups do not target township and non-urban areas because these markets need to be built from the group up, which means additional marketing costs and slower growth and adoption rates.
Therefore, coupled with the need to cover maintenance costs and the demand for growth and traction from investors, food delivery Startups prefer competing in the already established urban markets. This has led to high concentration in urban markets while non-urban markets remain relatively untapped.
“We saw this and realised that there was value that could be created” said Basheer. “After speaking to a few interested entrepreneurs, we saw that they could manage every aspect of the food delivery business, but could not afford to pay for an App. That is how Viero was born”
Viero is a SaaS Platform that enables entrepreneurs to create a food delivery web application with no code in 60 seconds. (Here’s how it works – https://youtu.be/1T9oxNtRDpM).
The platform built a standard food delivery application template and enables it to be cloned, rebranded and hosted through white-labelling. Entrepreneurs can use the application under a monthly subscription and have access to many features depending on their chosen plan. Entrepreneurs can also make changes to the layout and design of their app, all without any code.
Launched in South Africa on 1 June 2020, the platform has achieved amazing uptake thus far. 22 Apps in total have been created with 2 Food delivery Startups that are live and operating in South Africa and 20 other Startups preparing for launch. 108 orders have been delivered, with R4700 processed in transactions, 200 customer users, 16 listed stores and 45 delivery agents.
Viero was launched by UCT students Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude. They met in their first year in 2018 as residents of Smuts Hall Residence at The University of Cape Town, when they were introduced by a mutual friend who noticed their passion for entrepreneurship. Since then, they have worked together on several Startups and projects.
Basheer and Hopewell are not new to the food delivery industry. In 2019, they launched Zistify, a food delivery start-up for the university market. Zistify delivers food ordered from food vendors on campus through it’s app to university students and staff.
Viero is in capable hands and is ready to disrupt the food delivery industry in Africa. Currently raising a $100 000 seed round to incorporate logistics into its business offering, to bring in more talent to the team, and to continue building and improving the platform.