Last month’s AHUB at AfricaCom included the first Pitch & Win session, a chance for African tech start-ups to pitch their concept to a panel of judges and get recognised by Africa’s premier tech community. Tech entrepreneurs from the whole continent applied and 6 finalists were chosen by our panel of judges for the chance of winning a membership to Mlab and a range of promotional opportunities.
The winning pitch was bimaAFYA (health:insurance) a mobile micro health insurance product launched by EdgePoint for the low income and informal sector population in Tanzania. Co-Founder Lilian Makoi received the award and talks to us about her journey.
AHUB: What is your background and how did you become a tech entrepreneur?
Lilian Makoi:I worked for Mobile value Added Services Global companies for the past 6 years. I started at Spice VAS Africa as an administration Officer right after my degree, then was promoted to a Content Manager, dealing with Tanzania Artists, then promoted to an Account Manager where I managed Tigo Tanzania , Airtel Tanzania and Zantel companies as an account, all within my 1st year at Spice. I then moved to OnMobileGlobal, another VAS Global Company where I managed Vodacom Tanzania as an account, then joined Flytxt International where I handled big data analysis for Airtel Tanzania, then Airtel Rwanda and Airtel Malawi.
My entrepreneurship journey started from the time I was doing my Bachelor’s degree. Despite coming from a privileged family, I always wanted to achieve more of my own. I was renting out movies/ DVDs for tsh.500 per day from my dorm room at 19 years old. When I got my first job (Spice VAS) I opened a diet and cleaning company where I cooked and delivered diet programme meals to over 300 clients at that time, simultaneously doing domestic cleaning for busy moms and newlyweds who did not want the bother of a sleep in maid for privacy. Both business idea came from personal experiences as I grew into a mother and realized the struggle of losing weight and managing a household.
A How did the idea of bimaAFYA start and grow?
LM: By 2014, I started seeing opportunities in my employment area (Telecommunications and technology) and thought it is time I try something more professional and achieve the huge dreams I had. The passion to create solutions for the low income population and informal sector came after witnessing a motorist die because he could not afford treatment from a road accident, then a colleague introduced me to the subject of ‘financial inclusion’ researched about it, reading over 30 articles and papers and the Mobile Micro-health Insurance product was in the making!
It got more exciting realizing that of 49 million Tanzania’s only 4.5% were health insured, and these were from the formal sector only, insured through their employers! 19% was the middle income population who could afford health insurance and out of pocket expenses anyways, leaving out 76.5% low income and informal sector population, uninsured and most dying from curable diseases.
Building bimaAFYA, we did a research with top health insurers to understand why no insurer tried to build a solution for the ignored 23million population, and all insurers came back with one reason, insurance administration costs hinders low premium covers affordable to the low income population. That is where the idea of moving the entire administration work from paperwork and man power to 100% paperless over the mobile phone solution. We were able to cut administration costs by 99% and come up with insurance covers of up to $1 premium per month with benefits/ free health services of up to $80.
Two years later, I feel technology is home for me.
A: When and how did it move from being an idea to becoming a product and a business?
LM: It took me 1 week to visualize what the solution would look like, 2 months of back and forth research and designing, 3 months of product build up. I was running an entire Company, as the delivery manager, account manager, finance manager and the MD. These were 6 months of sleepless nights, working two jobs (I was still employed) building the product most times I would come from work and work on my project until 6am, but I was enjoying it! It got exciting each step of the way.
The next step was getting a buy-in from the biggest insurer in the country for insurance underwriting and relationship with hospitals across the country. My partner (Chris Rabi) and I started the hunt, walking in door to door selling an idea and convincing we are the best technology company to partner with. This wasn’t tough, the idea being solid and God’s grace, we got The Jubilee Insurance ofTanzania Ltd onboard. They were very excited and the partnership marked the beginning of a serious venture. Partnering with the telecom Companies, Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel were the next mile stones we were able to achieve.
By January 2015, we were ready for a launch. It is when I had a technology business to run then. I stopped running a one man show in February and hired 4 employees to run the business.
A: What are your plans for bimaAFYA in the coming years?
LM: BimaAFYA gives over 23million Tanzania’s access to covered hospital care, set to reduce home births by 70%, reduce infant and children deaths by 30%, improve maternal care and reduce poverty. We plan to increase our base in Tanzania, after the recently acquired funding from The Bill and Melinda GatesFoundation and further funding from Startup Boot Camp – UK of over $ 500,000, we plan to cover 2 million of Tanzania’s by the end of 2016.
2016 will also include new partnerships and set ups in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Hence, by 2017, we will be providing health insurance and improving lives of about 10 million Africans!
A: How do you feel about winning the AfricaCom Ahub ‘pitch & win’ session?
LM: The Competition was tight, each candidate had a strong innovation, it was immense pleasure knowing that the judges understood and saw the value of our proposition! Getting access to Ahub services is a win we understand will move EdgePoint to a different level of a startup!
A: Would you recommend the AHUB to other start-ups and why?
LM: AHUB brought an amazing experience to start ups who needed to get their innovation exposed to possible partners and investors. It gives you the skills and experience of pitching to a potential investor while exposing you to other startups to learn from them.
Winning the AfricaComAwards dinner pass gives the startup an opportunity to network with potential partners, investors and big names in the technology industry. AHUB lab facilities are again a unique set of services set to increase the value of your startup and equip you with business enhancement facilities. I recommend every technology star up to participate next time and enjoy all these benefits.
The AHUB will take place again at AfricaCom on 15-17 November 2016.