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Sahara Foundation Empowers 30 Entrepreneurs To Mark World Entrepreneurship Month

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Beneficiaries of #StartUpNation photographed with the organizers in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

November is celebrated globally every year as the Entrepreneurship Month. It is a period to celebrate men and women who brave all odds to take smart risks in business – an informed leap in the dark if you will – to create value.

StartUps are gaining traction across the globe as more people continue to embrace the challenge of carving a niche for their business ideas. Particularly noteworthy and deserving of commendation are the young people who have taken the bull by the horns by starting, running and sustaining businesses in climes with peculiar economic challenges.

Sahara Group is delighted to celebrate these heroes who would ultimately emerge as icons and business leaders.

Having spent the month of November showcasing innovative business solutions by entrepreneurs across various sectors, Sahara Foundation organized an Entrepreneurship Workshop to help beneficiaries lay a solid foundation for their businesses.

Themed StartUp Nation, the one day workshop hosted 30 young entrepreneurs to five transformative sessions with accomplished professionals and entrepreneurs as facilitators. The entrepreneurs who were selected via the Foundation’s digital platform for young innovators and entrepreneurs – www.saharahub.com – were exposed to business rudiments as well as knowledge and information for growing their businesses.

Olumuyiwa Adebayo, CFA Head, Group Finance,  Sahara Group during a session at #StartUpNation
Olumuyiwa Adebayo, CFA Head, Group Finance, Sahara Group leading a session at #StartUpNation

The workshop sessions included topics on finance, business funding, branding, social media use for business and starting and growing a business with currently available resources.

Ivie Imasogie- Adigun, Group Head, Human Resources, Sahara Group set the tone for the workshop with a thought-provoking opening remark. “Entrepreneurs are people who pursue their dreams passionately and are never afraid to fail. This tenacity ultimately equips them for the journey ahead, paving the way for success as long as they remain focused, innovative and determined. This is a path we have been through and continue to develop at Sahara Group and we are delighted to support young people to realise their dreams,” she counselled.

Beneficiary at #StartUpNation
Beneficiary at #StartUpNation

The Facilitators included Olumuyiwa Adebayo, Head, Sahara Group Finance; Oyindamola Johnson, an African Union Youth Champion; Omolabake Bode-Matthew, a successful entrepreneur; Adenike Bamigbade, Digital Marketing Expert; and Tunji Andrew, a serial entrepreneur, radio show host and investor. Their sessions were engaging, practical and resourceful.

In what could have easily passed for a mini-MBA, the participants were schooled and practically shown the way to navigate business terrains with particular reference to the Nigerian market.

 Oyindamola Johnson - Curator, Elevate Your Game
Oyindamola Johnson – Curator, Elevate Your Game at #StartUpNation

Citing the entrepreneurial trajectory of Sahara Group, Mrs. Pearl Uzokwe, Director of Governance & Sustainability, closed the session by assuring the entrepreneurs that they had the potential of becoming the next big businesses. “Sahara Group was founded by three entrepreneurs 22 years ago and today the business has become a global conglomerate operating in 38 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. We believe you are on the right path and Sahara Group will continue to support young entrepreneurs through the SaharaHub and similar initiatives. StartUps and small businesses are critical for economic growth and development and we remain committed to providing platforms for small businesses to thrive and grow.”

Sahara Foundation Manager, Oluseyi Ojurongbe stated that the empowerment project was the first of many more platforms to support young entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, networks, and funds needed to grow their businesses. “This is the thrust of Sahara Foundation’s Extrapreneurship drive,” he added.

 

SAHARA GROUP

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Babusi Nyoni, the Zimbabwean Powering Africa’s Digital Health Economy with Sila Health

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Babusi Nyoni is the co-founder and CEO of Sila Health, a global social enterprise that helps people everywhere access healthcare on any mobile device. Sila Health provides last-mile health care access across Africa using chat platforms and machine learning, creating comprehensive datasets to advance regional healthcare. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Babusi shared the Sila Health journey and the vision to provide healthcare access to Africa’s most economically vulnerable. Excerpt.

 

How It Started

I started Sila Health in 2019 as an AI-powered health service after my mother fell ill in the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo. Complications related to a relatively manageable condition (megaloblastic anemia) had gone misdiagnosed several times in the city’s under-resourced public health institutions, nearly costing her life until she sought private care.

Unfortunately her story is one of many across Africa where doctor-patient ratios are an average 1:5000 and low income levels mean quality healthcare is out of reach for many even as the continent’s internet growth and mobile payment adoption rates continue to outstrip the world. I saw an opportunity to connect millions of uninsured patients to healthcare providers on existing chat apps while helping them manage and find information on easily treatable conditions instantly on our platform just as my mother does.

Today we help thousands of Africans and their governments affordably bridge health gaps at scale and we are connecting the continent’s growing telemedicine industry to its first billion customers.

The Problem

Africa’s digital health infrastructure is not built to scale as millions struggle with accessing basic health and medical care through traditional methods. Currently online health advice is inaccessible to most of the region’s inhabitants as many online health-solutions are data-heavy and are not built with the context of the African user in mind while players in the healthcare ecosystem lack the real-time data insights needed to contain the spread of preventable diseases.

Additionally, Africa’s telemedicine industry is growing at a slower rate than its global counterparts. Many surveyed telemedicine platforms struggle with recruiting quality patients due to the high costs of acquisition. Existing patient management platforms lack the features needed to provide comprehensive and scalable patient aftercare.

The Solution

The Sila Health user-facing product is a chatbot that enables individuals in low income countries with limited access to healthcare and the internet to instantly obtain health advice that can help them significantly improve their health. If the automated interaction proves insufficient a user can make an appointment with a trained healthcare services  provider via phone. Our services require very little internet data, therefore are accessible to our target group and our integrated COVID-19 module that helps people see if they show symptoms of being infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Our chatbot is accessible via Facebook chat, WhatsApp and SMS. These platforms are very popular among our target groups and are accessible on the lowest data plan tiers. By having our product accessible via these platforms the user is able to have access to medical information with very little internet data costs. Other medical chatbots require expensive app-downloads and are generally inaccessible to users with low-incomes. Our product is built for low to middle income households first, and for that reason has gained significant  popularity with a 5/5 star rating and over 50% month over month growth. 

Data Product

Sila Trends, our data product, enables NGOs and governments to obtain real-time data on reported symptoms in the areas they preside over. Where currently health data is hard and expensive to access, our tool enables our clients to: 

  1. Quickly recognize breakouts of infectious diseases, which is crucial for a quick and informed response. 
  2. Follow general health trends real-time to better evaluate health policy. Understand what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Predict the future demand for health equipment and medication by locale.

Telemedicine Product

Lifeline, our data product, helps telemedicine platforms struggling with acquiring quality users by handling the triage process on WhatsApp, Messenger and SMS and referring only high-intent users to partners. Lifeline provides doctors with critical context on a patient’s history including their profile, reported symptoms and triage result. We also provide environmental context on common symptoms in the patient’s location powered by our analytics product, Sila Trends. This saves your practice time and money. Lifeline helps practices across Africa achieve the following

  1. Increase practice revenue by 12% 
  2. Reduce administrative costs by 30% 
  3. Increase quality of care by 5% through improving outcomes.

Prepaid Cover Product

HealthPass is a prepaid product that allows Africans living in the diaspora to pay for and provide world-class healthcare for their loved ones back home. Smarter than medical aid, fulfilled by verified healthcare practitioners, HealthPass members enjoy pharmacy perks, free delivery and more; all from less than the price of a Netflix subscription.

Benefits include: 

  1. Guaranteed medical & dental cover, members can explore a world of benefits with the HealthPass network of verified providers.
  2. A virtual pharmacy wallet that enables sponsors to automatically manage and pay for prescribed medications at no extra cost.
  3. Free country-wide prescription delivery for all members with medicine delivered directly to each doorstep.

B I O G R A P H Y 

Babusi Nyoni is the co-founder and CEO of Sila Health, a global social enterprise that helps people everywhere access healthcare on any mobile device. He uses emerging technology to develop sustainable solutions for communities in the global South. He founded Sila Health after identifying an opportunity for artificial intelligence to fill the institutional voids created by poor healthcare systems in developing economies. Babusi has a strong passion for new ideas that will change the lives of those around him and is a firm believer that African innovation will shape the technological zeitgeist worldwide.

Other Current Responsibilities;

His is an Innovation Consultant to UNHCR (Switzerland); helps drive innovation to assist and protect millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced and stateless people. Technology Advisory Board Member at Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (UK); He advises the UK-based global foundation on Artificial Intelligence implementation at scale. Technology Advisory Board Member at UNDP Africa Leading the 4th Industrial Revolution Technical Advisory Group(UK); he provides technical advice and guidance for the Africa Leading 4IR portfolio of activities.

 

 

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The Story of Nigenius and why teachers love it – Kelechi Uchenna

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Nigenius Founder, Kelechi Uchenna

Nigenius is a smart website that works with teachers, parents and educators to quickly generate well researched, vetted lesson plans and quality teaching resources. Kelechi Uchenna, the Founder and Application Manager of Nigenius, shared with Business Africa Online the story of Nigenius, this is how it began, and where they are now.

 

How it started:

So, in 2015, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while waiting on an employment offer which wasn’t forthcoming, I decided that I needed to start a business, solve a problem, and get paid for it. So, I started my first legally registered company called Innovative Digital Learning. Having been good at creating presentations and having been taught extensively with technology during my masters in Cyprus. I noticed a gap in the schools in around me, and that was the fact that schools were not harnessing the power of technology in the classroom. Innovative digital learning was created to train teachers with technology in the classroom to improve student performance and learning outcomes. We started with my neighbours’ primary school, and by 2017 we had trained over 6 private schools in Port Harcourt, with over 300 teachers in teaching with technology in the classroom.

In June 2017, I moved to Lagos and our first training for a school was at Lekki Phase 1. Two important moments, led to the idea of Nigenius. During the 5-day training program for the school, an admin asked me a question and said “Mr Kelechi, what will you be leaving with us after this training? We want more than just the training, we want content, we want resources”. In that same year, Innovative Digital Learning got selected among the Top 50 startups in the BET 7 program sponsored by Diamond Bank (now Access Bank) in partnership with the Enterprise Development Center of the Lagos Business School. During the programme, a fellow female entrepreneur in the programme asked me a very important question, and she said “ Kelechi, how can you prove that you have impacted these teachers, how can you prove that you have transformed the way these teachers teach”.

The Motive:

With those questions bothering my mind, and the resolve to build a solution, I set out on a journey to find out from the teachers if the training had impacted them. We visited all the schools, and we found out that only 2 out of every 10 teachers had actually applied what they learned in the training and actually taught with technology in the classroom. We wanted to find out their reasons for the low adoption and they listed their challenges. Two major problems stood out amongst all the others, the teachers were overworked because they spent so much time creating their lesson plans, and also some lacked the knowledge on how to access these teaching resources online even after they had been taught in the training.

The Idea:

Sitting on a couch one evening, I had a eureka moment, and decided to build a smart digital assistant for teachers. An application to work with teachers, reduce their workloads, and give them access to online teaching resources. We knew that to reduce the workload of the teachers, we had to remove something that took a lot of their time and effort, i.e., lesson plans, and as for the teaching resources. What better way to give them teaching resources if not to give them the resources based on the four components of Innovative Digital Learning of which some of them had been trained. At that point, we called it the “Innovative Digital Assistant for teachers” IDAT. A few days later, in the shower, the name “Nigenius” struck me, build something that can help Nigerian teachers create geniuses. This was the ending of 2017, Nigenius was born.

The Bumpy road:

At the beginning of 2018, I was lucky to have come across some money from family, which I was going to use to invest in my future. We started building Nigenius in January 2018. A friend of mine introduced me to Samson Odele, a web developer, as a contractor at the time, who would go on to later become a co-founder. I pitched the idea to him and we went to work. Building Nigenius involved two things, the application, and the teaching content. We launched Nigenius as a mobile app on the Google store on the 1st of October 2018, Independence Day. Though it had just a few lesson plans, but we launched nonetheless. We started getting downloads, users were growing, but we still needed to get more content in because we believed that only with enough content, we could get people to actually pay for subscriptions.

The Pilot:

After launching in October 2018 as a mobile app, it took us 10 months after to generate enough content to be able to hit the market and offer value to teachers and schools. We were able to fund our content generation and uploads from another of my businesses. We worked with graduate interns, trained them, and set them to work on a pay as you deliver model, that way we were able to get value for the money invested. Our lesson plans and teaching resources were also sent to schools for subject teachers to vet and approve before we upload on our database. One of the biggest challenges in building Nigenius was being able to create a lesson plan which could be easily used and understood by a cross section of both private and public schools.

Before we hit the market, a mentor advised that we do a free pilot with schools as a means of getting feedback on our solution, and to understand our customers experience first, before jumping into the market. At this point, luckily, we had been selected into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship 2019 session.

The Take-off and experience:

During the pilot, we collected the feedback data from the teachers and analysed it carefully, some of it was negative and some it was positive. Some of the negative feedback was that most teachers wanted Nigenius on their laptops which was where they went to create their lesson plans and to look for teaching resources, not on their mobile phones. We also discovered a need to make our search algorithms smarter because teachers were searching for content, which we had on our database but they weren’t getting results. Armed with the $5000 dollars from Tony Elumelu, we set out to build the new Nigenius Version 2, which would be on a website, no longer a mobile app, accessible to any one on any device. The new version went live in August 2020. We also added a feature to our admin end that helped us see the searches and the download that our users were carrying out on the website.

The new Nigenius ran on single and multi-user subscriptions. We offered users a free one-week trial, after which they would have to subscribe. However, 6 months after launch of V2, we didn’t have a single subscription payment. We discovered lesson plans and teaching resources were valuable to our users, but they weren’t enough pain point for our users to pay for. So, we decided to pivot our model. We made Nigenius free to use and launched the Nigenius Home tutor service. We already had over 500 teachers on our platform as at March 2021. And were going to sign up our teachers as tutors, connect them to parents who were looking for tutors for after school lessons for their kids, charge the parents a monthly fee, pay the tutors and collect a commission.

The Nigenius home tutor service had a unique selling point, we are not just providing highly trained, and qualified tutors, our tutors also leverage online line digital resources from our application to give kids the best learning experience.

We were also lucky to receive an investment from Aidi ventures as we joined their group of portfolio startups. With the investment, and immense expertise and mentorship from Aidi we are now charting a new course as we add amazing new features to our business model.

We are building a vibrant ecosystem of teaching and learning where teachers can access free lesson plans and teaching resources, parents can request highly qualified home tutors from top schools across the country. Teachers can create, and host group online lessons and parents can sign up their kids for these lessons.

 

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OceanHub Africa, Cape Town-based Ocean-Impact Catalyser Disrupting the Growing Blue Economy in Africa

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Oceanhub Africa Team

OceanHub Africa, founded by Alexis Grosskopf and Stéphanie Canac is an organisation based in Cape-Town, South Africa that aims to accelerate the development and adoption of ocean-minded innovations, to unleash the power of African ocean innovators and place Cape Town at the forefront of a more sustainable ocean economy. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Alexis and Stéphanie shared their journey and vision to be the movement that inspires more ocean-conscious entrepreneurs and form the tribe that demonstrates the commercial viability of an ocean-minded economy. Excerpt.

 

OceanHub Africa OHA and problem its solving:

OceanHub Africa was launched in July 2019. It is a non-profit ocean-impact catalyst initiative, supporting ocean-impact ventures in Africa through online acceleration programs and leading an international ocean-minded ecosystem. The organisation is a response to pressing ocean challenges. Having realised that there were B2C organisations in the ocean impact space raising people’s awareness and shifting individual behaviours, some B2G organisations lobbying policy-makers to regulate for ocean conservation, but limited to no B2B organisations helping ocean businesses reduce their impact and support their transition towards a sustainable ocean economy (or Blue Economy).

This, combined with the fact that Cape Town – where OHA was initially launched- sits virtually at the crossroads of three oceans, has good business and entrepreneurship support, strong Marine Science universities and an appeal for sustainable development. It appeared highly relevant to launch OHA.

Set milestones, achievements and impact:

Our mission is to inspire and assist innovative impact start-ups and nurture an environmentally conscious and profitable economy that would effectively mitigate the oceans’ over exploitation, pollution as well as the effects of global warming on the oceans. The first acceleration programme was successfully completed in 2020 despite the challenges and saw 6 startups of different stages (prototyping to growth stage), technologies (digital and hardware) and industries (aquaculture/fisheries, shipping/ship-building, marine renewables/biotechnologies, coastal tourism/ocean-sports, awareness/education) graduating during the Ocean Innovation Africa Summit in Nov 2020.

Our second cohort started earlier in April with 6 new promising African-based, ocean-minded, impact-for-profit innovative businesses.

OHA is supported by a range of partners such as WWF, Mission Blue, 1% for the planet, Dassault Systèmes, Amazon, Sigfox, the V&A Waterfront, French and African Diplomacies, and International Universities. It is a founding partner of the 1000 Ocean Startups coalition to accelerate Ocean Impact Innovation, bringing together the global ecosystem of incubators, accelerators, competitions, matching platforms and VCs supporting startups for ocean impact. Our objective is to scale at least 1000 transformative startups by the end of the Ocean Decade to restore ocean health and achieve SDG14.

Challenges:

Oceans are a common good which means that we need all stakeholders onboard to achieve and sustain our impact. Bringing organisations together and setting common objectives has proven challenging at times but that was the reason for launching Ocean Innovation Africa, a platform bringing authorities, universities/research centres, investors/entrepreneurs, foundations/NPOs and ocean industries together with the objectives to  inspire more entrepreneurs, entice more private investors and catalyse more partnerships, and ultimately to accelerate the development and adoption of new sustainable technologies and policies to place the African continent at the forefront of a decidedly more sustainable ocean economy.

Funding:

Self-funded from the start, we are client-funded through consultancy projects and success fees on fund raises or commercial contracts for the startups we accelerate. That being said, we are looking for funding to support our growth.

COVID-19, business and survival strategy:

Initially, OHA was supposed to be an in-person program – enabled by the support of the V&A Waterfront. But our first cohort started in April 2020 when lockdowns were gradually placing our global economy on hold. We had to pivot in a matter of weeks to a fully online, more localised (SA) program and review our financing model. Indeed, regarding the latter, we had hoped to raise marketing and open innovation sponsorships from corporations to finance our activities but these two budgets were frozen in the face of the uncertain future of the then recent outbreak.

At that stage, we started our first consulting project – thanks to the support and trust of our partners, in particular the V&A Waterfront and WWF South Africa.

On current projects:

We are currently accelerating 6 startups from Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as continuing our support in the form of an Alumni Program to our first cohort of 6 (all South African startups). In parallel, we are delivering on a couple of consulting projects to promote and support coastal community projects in the South West Indian Ocean region, as well as another one on plastic pollution.

Finally, we are working on setting up an African Ocean Impact Fund – but still a long way to go.

Ocean economy development in Africa:

Oceans are the life support of our planet. They drive our climate, provide food and water to all living things, and connect our continents. The annual value of the global Ocean’s Economy (formal and informal) is estimated at $2.5 trillion and is expected to grow substantially, doubling by 2030. However, our societies are already generating tremendous stress and strain onto these ecosystems and this vast untapped economic potential needs to be addressed in a radically more sustainable manner. We believe it is down to businesses to implement that change and up us to promote more Oceans-conscious innovative businesses: innovations led by science, technology and entrepreneurship will provide the necessary leverage points to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), at the right pace and scale.

Africa offers a particularly high potential in terms of Blue Economy developments, paving the way to ocean community-based resource management and offering an ideal ground to test and scale impact innovation. Africa’s ocean economy – three times the size of its landmass – is on top of the continent’s political agenda and seen to be a major contributor to continental transformation and growth of industries such as fisheries and aquaculture, marine renewables and bio-technologies, boat building and shipping, coastal tourism and ocean-sports, etc. The development of the Blue Economy is an immensely important first step towards creating Sustainable Development pathways and this is what OceanHub Africa (OHA) and the Ocean Innovation Africa event (OIA) do.

The future for OHA:

Growing our network of partners in African coastal cities to support our pan-African growth and impact. And of course, setting up our accelerator fund.

 

F O U N D E R S   B I O G R A P H P Y

Alexis Grosskopf is the co-founder and CEO of OceanHub Africa. His desire to build this startup incubator, specializing in technologies that have a positive impact on the ocean, was born out of his entrepreneurial and technological skills, his determination to tackle issues related to environmental protection and his identification of a real need to develop solutions that support blue growth.

Alexis holds a degree in mechanical engineering, business management and environmental engineering from the Universities of King’s College and Imperial College in London. His career has revolved around the themes of innovation and sustainable development, starting with research on solar hydrogen production, then moving on to consulting in environmental engineering and management at Bureau Veritas before joining Bouygues Construction as head of Research, Development and Innovation in the renovation sector.

His activity then turned towards the development of innovations through entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. In 2017, he moved to South Africa to take charge of the activities of the French South African Tech Labs, an incubator with social impact in the field of information technology, before diving into the oceans with OceanHub Africa in 2019.

Stéphanie Canac is the co-founder of OceanHub Africa. Stéphanie co-created and implemented the acceleration program (content, tools, partnerships, mentors, application and selection process, etc.) and she has a mentoring role with accelerated startups. She participates in consolidating the local and global ecosystem, having in particular co-created the first international coalition of entrepreneurial support organizations focusing on ocean impact innovation (incubators / accelerators and VC funds) and representing the initiative in front of various institutions, such as the United Nations.

Stéphanie has former experience as portfolio manager at Silvertree Holdings, Cape-Town based VC fund (1.5 yr), supporting management teams on strategic decisions, setting up/ scaling operations and raising funds and as strategy consultant at A.T. Kearney (3 yrs), working across industries on strategic, operational and organizational projects as well as strategic due-diligences. She is a graduate from a MSc in Economics and Strategy for Business from Imperial College London and from a Master in Corporate Finance from Dauphine university in Paris.

 

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