The Nigerian entrepreneur who runs ‘an Amazon for blood’ | Health

Temie Giwa-Tubosun had an epiphany 13 years in the past when she met an expectant mom who was about to lose her child. Giwa-Tubosun was working as a 22-year-old intern with a well being providers organisation in northern Nigeria, doing surveys of rural folks looking for care. The household of the mother-to-be thought she would die in an advanced labour as a result of the infant was the wrong way up in a twisted breech place. This wasn’t an unrealistic concern, in a rustic the place one in 22 ladies perish in being pregnant, throughout start, whereas present process abortions, or afterwards.

Because it turned out, the girl obtained surgical procedure and survived. However her child didn’t, and that loss of life shook Giwa-Tubosun deeply. She didn’t go away her lodge room for 4 days and barely ate. “I believed it was so unjust that ladies might die in childbirth,” she recollects. “That obtained me hooked on maternal healthcare.”

That incident, in addition to the tough start of her personal son afterward, obtained her fascinated with blood. Giwa-Tubosun had been considering a profession that was well being associated in a roundabout way, and she or he knew that postpartum haemorrhaging was the main reason behind maternal mortality in Nigeria, which data almost eight occasions the worldwide variety of 211 deaths per 100,000 stay births. That’s partly as a result of first rate healthcare in Nigeria is elusive to all however the wealthy; the World Well being Group (WHO) constantly ranks it among the many worst globally.

In 2010, Giwa-Tubosun received a fellowship on the WHO in Geneva. She went on to work on numerous well being initiatives, together with in Uganda and in Minnesota in america. In 2012, she made the leap and based an NGO often called the One P.c Mission, whose raison d’etre was to coach Nigerians on blood donations and distribute them higher all through the nation. This led to the creation 4 years later of LifeBank, a distribution enterprise that makes use of knowledge and expertise to get pressing blood provides to hospitals. It serves as a bridge between donors and clinics.

Giwa-Tubosun’s work has earned her reward throughout the globe together with from the World Financial Discussion board, and she or he has spoken on influential platforms – such because the TedxEustonSalon – about her imaginative and prescient for tackling blood scarcity on the African continent. Fb founder Mark Zuckerberg stated after assembly her in 2016 that “If she truly pulls it off, then she’d present a mannequin that may influence not simply Lagos, not simply Nigeria, however countries all around the world.” Giwa-Tubosun is pulling it off moderately properly. Working with over 150 accredited blood banks and 142 workers, LifeBank serves over 600 hospitals throughout Nigeria and has lately expanded into Kenya, in keeping with Giwa-Tubosun. She says she has distributed sufficient blood to save lots of greater than 100,000 lives.

This social entrepreneurship is all of the extra important contemplating that feminine executives are few and much between in Nigeria – to which Giwa-Tubosun merely says, “We get to save lots of lives and we get to rescue folks.”

Bikes, trikes and drones

Even over Zoom, Giwa-Tubosun exudes energy. Al Jazeera catches her on the finish of a really lengthy day earlier than she’s had dinner. But her vitality is excessive. Even with out make-up and in an off-the-cuff African print gown, she offers off the form of authority that’s saved her profitable in a sector the place only a few ladies are seen.

Based mostly in Lagos, the nation’s financial capital, the 35-year-old speaks from the visitor room of her home. The partitions behind her sport framed footage of her husband, Kola Tubosun, a linguist and author, in addition to a portray of their son, Enaife, by the distinguished essayist and artist Yemisi Aribisala. Not that Giwa-Tubosun spends that a lot time at house; she works six days every week.

Giwa-Tubosun started LifeBank as a startup with two workers to facilitate transferring blood from labs throughout Nigeria to sufferers and docs in hospitals. It started together with her private funds. The corporate was merely an app then. In 2016, a pre-seed funding of $25,000 enabled the corporate to maneuver to the premises of a enterprise incubator, CcHUB, in a suburb of Lagos.

She initially envisaged a distribution system for blood from labs to hospitals, centered on moms. LifeBank’s innovation was to leverage expertise to gather stock knowledge from blood banks and provide blood that had already been screened by the labs to hospitals based mostly on request. Hospitals name LifeBank to position orders 24-7. Initially, LifeBank relied on dispatch riders. The corporate has advanced right into a digital medical distribution firm that delivers different crucial medical provides aside from blood, akin to oxygen, plasma, and vaccines, to hospitals in each area the place they’re current.

Giwa-Tubosun is intentional concerning the areas the place the corporate spreads. “We search for giant markets with disorganised health-supply chain techniques the place our innovation might drive important influence,” she says. She plans to develop to Ethiopia quickly. LifeBank presents a round the clock service for the over 500 hospitals in its community and goals to offer entry to protected blood in below 45 minutes utilizing bikes, boats, grownup tricycles and drones.

Being a 24-7 operation throughout 9 states in Nigeria presents safety challenges akin to abductions and killings in locations like Maiduguri within the north of the nation, the place Boko Haram is energetic. Giwa-Tubosun says the corporate has managed to unravel these points by looking for the safety of native communities. In the course of the avenue protests in Lagos, in 2020, LifeBank motorbikes ferrying blood have been blocked by what some claimed have been hoodlums and others the police. After outrage on Twitter, the street cleared for them to drop the provides at hospitals treating folks harm within the protest.

I consider us because the Amazon of healthcare besides we work solely with hospitals. We deliver world normal procurements to African hospitals proper on their platform.

by Temie Giwa-Tubosun

Safety points apart, Nigeria suffers from a deficit of blood. In accordance with the Nationwide Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), the nation collects about 500,000 pints of blood yearly, leaving a deficit of over 73 %. LifeBank organises blood drives and runs advocacy campaigns to dismantle prevalent myths about blood donation. Along with this, on a continent the place some roads are inaccessible and, in lots of cities, visitors jams are legendary, the flexibility to make use of different technique of transportation to get to hospitals is crucial. “I consider us because the Amazon of healthcare besides we work solely with hospitals,” Giwa-Tubosun says together with her wealthy giggle. “We deliver world normal procurements to African hospitals proper on their platform.” The simplicity of the mannequin in comparison with the influence has shocked her.

And he or she thinks on her ft. In 2018, a critically sick physician working at a hospital in Nigeria died as a result of the hospital didn’t have oxygen. When she heard of this, Giwa-Tubosun started pondering of including medical oxygen to her “retailer”. A yr later, at first of the coronavirus pandemic, LifeBank launched testing centres and delivered medical oxygen to COVID-19 sufferers in isolation centres in Lagos free of charge.

Social influence or not, Giwa-Tubosun finds fundraising tough for a wide range of causes. For a self-confessed introvert, whose pure inclination is to “sit and observe”, the networking required to get monetary backers might be painful. Add to that the gender bias that faces feminine entrepreneurs. Girls are typically not taken as significantly as males on this patriarchal society, she says. To make issues worse, healthcare is a very tough sector to boost capital for, as a result of it’s seen as extremely regulated, which might make it tougher for buyers to rake in big income. The demand for capital outweighs the availability. “It’s simpler to boost for fintech,” Giwa-Tubosun says, frustration evident in her voice. “You’d assume COVID would make a distinction, nevertheless it hasn’t.”

Those that do obtain the providers in LifeBank’s community are grateful, nonetheless, together with Kanne Nzeribe. He works within the medical lab on the Zenith Medical and Kidney Middle, a clinic in Abuja. “LifeBank is making an enormous distinction in blood banking, its accessibility and likewise its affordability,” he enthuses. “They’re all the time out there when wanted and so they’ve helped out our sufferers quite a bit and likewise in saving lives.”

Breaking down boundaries

Giwa-Tubosun’s manner brightens once more when she talks concerning the tradition she’s enabled at work. Her workers name her by her first identify, Temie, an uncommon transfer in a society with a hierarchical construction. Elders, bosses and anybody in authority are typically not addressed as such, however, she explains, “I used to be intentional in breaking down the boundaries that will make it tough for my employees to speak to me.” In accordance with her private assistant, Aisha Abiola, the boss runs an open-door coverage. “She’s accessible to us, particularly on points that have an effect on our lives and work,” Abiola says.

Giwa-Tubosun counts on one other fan – her husband, whom she met in 2009 via a mutual pal. “She’s all the time had a readability of imaginative and prescient and I discover that basically endearing,” Kola Tubosun, 40, says when requested about their relationship. “I’m impressed by her drive, optimism and ambition.” Unequal in peak – he looms greater than a foot over her 5-foot 4-inch (1.6m) body – they share parenting like equal companions, which helps her work the lengthy hours wanted to run her firm. Giwa-Tubosun wakes up at 4:45am, workouts thrice every week for an hour with a private coach, takes their son to highschool and is at work by 7:35am. A hands-on father, Kola does the afternoon shift. He picks up their son from faculty, supervises his homework, “supplies him with clean papers so he can fake to be a author”, and performs with him.

Sunday is her one relaxation day when she makes dinner, which is usually a lavish affair involving many intricate dishes from overseas cuisines (she rediscovered her ardour for cooking in the course of the pandemic). “I’ve binders stuffed with recipes,” she says. Not too long ago she “went to India” and made murgh makhani (butter rooster), garlic coriander chapatis, basmati rice, and a strawberry salad. The next week’s exploration concerned Szechuan rooster (further scorching), cilantro rice, and a salad of Asian greens.

Giwa-Tubosun says she’s all the time been severe and earnest. “I wasn’t a really social youngster,” she recollects. She would line up her footwear and fake they have been her college students. As an alternative of enjoying together with her dolls, she organised them. “And I had a powerful sense of justice. I used to be that youngster that saved declaring that one thing was unfair to her dad and mom.” Her largest position mannequin was the Nigerian human rights lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, who was common with the plenty and fewer so with the authorities who detained and beat him.

Giwa-Tubosun’s dad and mom, who have been educators, moved to the US together with her older siblings when she was 10 years outdated. She and her two youthful siblings joined them in Minnesota 5 years later. Her dad and mom pushed her to do properly at college and work exhausting. Her adopted nation gave her superhero films, which in flip infused a way of invincibility. “Everybody in America thinks they’re a superhero in ready,” she says.

That industriousness instilled in her childhood has served her properly. It has earned her accolades and several other awards. In 2019, she received the Jack Ma Basis’s African Enterprise Hero Award. In 2020, she was introduced with a International Citizen Prize for LifeBank’s novel strategy to blood shortages and response to the worldwide pandemic. And this yr, on the Cartier Influence Awards ceremony in Dubai, she received the primary place honour within the “Enhancing Lives” class. Nonetheless, she is eager to level out that whereas the honours would possibly carry her identify, they belong to the LifeBank staff. “The persons are working 24 hours saving lives,” she says. “I merely constructed a system to assist them do this.” Much more fulfilling than the awards, she says, are the messages of gratitude she will get from sufferers and their households, generally on Twitter the place each she and LifeBank are energetic.

By no means content material to sit down nonetheless, Giwa-Tubosun hopes to record the enterprise on the inventory trade in New York. She has set as targets some key milestones: be valued at $1bn, earn $100m in income the yr earlier than the itemizing, have free money move, and be Pan-African. That’s an bold plan for a corporation that made $1m in income final yr. She thinks it should take her seven years to get there. “That may require plenty of work, plenty of exhausting work and determining the way to fundraise successfully,” she says, her accent straddling two worlds: the Nigeria of her start and the US of her youth. She additionally hopes to boost the variety of hospitals served to about 14,000. She believes she’s on her means. LifeBank has obtained funding from pharma firms like Johnson & Johnson, and partnered with Merck on scientific trials. The corporate picked up its ninth state authorities partnership, a contract to provide hospitals in Yobe with crucial well being provides akin to blood and oxygen. “We obtained this partnership as a result of the federal government is aware of that we will remedy an issue that they’ve,” Giwa-Tubosun says. “We obtained this on benefit.” In a rustic the place cronyism is rife, she is especially pleased with this reality.

At a time when many Nigerians are leaving the nation – working or “japa-ing”, in native parlance – Giwa-Tubosun has no intention of doing so. At occasions she’s tempted, however she’s going to remain put. She believes in her mission and desires to see LifeBank attain extra villages and cities throughout the continent. “Africa is a troublesome place to tie your future,” she says, “nevertheless it’s additionally a spot of alternative.”

From the Afghan lady who fought patriarchy and the Soviets to the mom who taught her daughter what it means to outlive and the artwork of care, we’re telling the tales of ladies – modern, historic, within the public eye and neglected – who’re shaping different ladies’s lives. In 2022, ranging from Girls’s Historical past Month in March, these are the tales of ladies who’re making a distinction to different ladies.

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