In what was Africa’s male-dominated tech ecosystem, there is now an unstoppable influx of innovative women who are creating successful, digital health empires, thereby setting new standards and disrupting the digital health landscape on the continent.
What characterises these truly innovative women is their dedication to providing quality and affordable health care to the people through their unique and cutting-edge solutions which range from exceptional medicine and aviation to low-cost health insurance and a creative blood supply chain.
Notable names of Africa’s innovative women in the digital health space include Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Ola Orekurin, and Lilian Makoi Rabi
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of Lifebank, Nigeria
Through her company, Lifebank, officially launched in 2016, Giwa-Tubosun demonstrates her commitment to providing essential medical supplies and delivering them to hospitals in real-time.
Having learned the major cause of maternal deaths in Africa is Post-Partum Hemorrhage-excessive bleeding shortly after a woman gives birth- this remarkable woman sets out to reduce the number of women who die in labour due to blood loss.
To venture further in the health sector, Giwa-Tubosun geared up by taking meetings, having discussions, and learning as much as she could so as to be in a better position to help other women.
Along the line, she realized that blood shortage also claims the lives of others such as children below 5 who have malaria, victims of accidents, Kidney dialysis patients, cancer patients, and so on.
In addition, lack of information about blood types and lack of infrastructure to move blood to where it is needed on time and in the right condition occasioned the birth of LifeBank to provide solutions.
Today, according to her, Lifebank is operational in “two and a half countries”. The company which runs on-demand 24/7 deploy its SmartBag, a blockchain-powered medical product that improves the safety standard of blood and reduces risks of Transfusion Transmissible diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV.
What is important to her is solving the problems of healthcare in Africa and saving lives in the process. She said,
“More than anyone, we understand the problems in our health sector; we live it every day. But one of the things that make it very hard is that these problems are solvable. A lot of the problems in our healthcare system are simple problems.”
Ola Orekunrin, founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria
Dr Ola is the renowned founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, launched in 2009. As a trailblazer, she is the first in West Africa to offer air ambulance service providing urgent helicopter, airplane ambulance, and evacuation services for people who are critically injured.
This remarkable woman holds triple titles, a doctor, a pilot, and a health entrepreneur.
Born and raised in London, she pursued her passion for medicine until a personal tragedy motivated her into starting a business aimed at finding an effective way of getting people who were critically ill to see the right doctor at the right facility within the right time frame for that particular illness.
To reach her goals, she began to study evacuation models and air ambulance services in other developing countries before launching her ambitious entrepreneurial venture, Flying Doctors Nigeria Limited.
However, it wasn’t without its own challenges. She said,
“When I arrived in Nigeria, I decided to start an air ambulance, not just a specialist pediatric air ambulance, that would cover Nigeria and West Africa. It took a huge amount of work to get started with a lot of mistakes and a lot of completely dead ends.”
With hard work, diligence, and persistence, the company, now based in Lagos and Port Harcourt, has 20 aircraft with 44 doctors out of 47 staff working tirelessly to save lives by moving gravely injured patients safely to hospitals while providing a high level of care en route.
The recipient of several accolades among which is the Young Global Leaders honours, Ola Orekunrin is an inspiration who is dedicated to making not just a difference to the lives of patients in Nigeria, but across Africa and the globe.
Lilian Makoi Rabi, founder of Jamii Africa, Tanzania
Having good support systems can be critical to achieving more than ordinary feats. This was the case with Tanzanian entrepreneur Lilian Makoi Rabi who right from childhood had been encouraged to believe in her dreams and ambitions.
In 2012, she founded Jamii Africa which provides mobile micro-health insurance for low-income citizens and other underserved communities, enabling healthcare services by reducing costs through their mobile devices.
Like other innovative women we’ve considered, Makoi Rabi’s desire to create her company was borne out of a personal experience. Her house-help lost her husband, a victim of an accident because they could not afford medical services.
From that experience, she realised that if low-income people were given access to health insurance, it would make a big difference for them.
These remarkably innovative women are tirelessly doing their best not only to improve the health care system of their respective countries but to give sick people a chance.
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