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How Three Nigerians Champion The ‘ Made In Africa’ Brand

The 10 nominees for Africa Innovation Foundation’s (AIF) 2016 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) awards were announced on May 9 ahead of the event which commemorates the fifth year of the ‘Made in Africa’ themed initiative. The event is scheduled to take place in Gaborone, Botswana on the 22nd and 23rd of June.

For five years now, the AIF has been using the IPA to encourage and promote growth and prosperity in the African continent by showcasing the innovative solutions developed by Africans for Africa. Out of 985 submissions made this year by innovators from multidisciplinary industries in 46 African countries, only 10 innovators made it to the final selection stage. All 10 innovations being recognised this year have recorded breakthroughs in the IPA categories of malaria and other public health burdens, smart solutions for farmers, and dynamic energy initiatives.

Following the outcome of one-on-one meetings and pitching sessions, the panel of judges will announce the top three winning innovations for 2016 at the June 23 awards ceremony holding in the Gaborone International Conference Centre (GICC). IPA 2016 judge, Dr. Toluwalogo Odumosu discloses that picking a winner entails understanding how the innovation can be potentially transformative and positively affect life on the continent. Also, the ingenuity of the inventor is also a factor in his decision making.

“I must admit that I am beyond impressed by the nominees for 2016. Without exception they are impressive candidates and foresee a very difficult decision process for the judges! This of course is a wonderful problem to have and only reflects positively on our slate of candidates for this year’s Innovation.”

This year’s event in Botswana will also witness IPA’s first ever Innovation Ecosystems Connector which is endorsed by Botswana’s President, H.E. Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. The president will also be presiding over the awards ceremony proper celebrating IPA’s fifth anniversary. “It goes without saying that I am very grateful to H.E. President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of Botswana, for his endorsement of the Prize being held in Gaborone”, says AIF Founder Jean Claude Bastos de Morais.

According Mr. Bastos de Morais, some of the highlights to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the initiative include launching a new online platform that will connect African innovators and innovation enablers and a book comprising of the contributions of innovation influencers in the Africa. He also mentioned that because capacity building and knowledge transfer is a key focus for AIF, this year’s programme will feature mentoring sessions and boot camps for innovators to understand and navigate intellectual property rights, business model development, pitching skills, and communications.

Among the 10 finalists who are up for the $150,000 prize money this year are three Nigerian innovators – Dr. Eddy Agbo, Godwin Benson, and Femi Odeleye. Dr. Eddy Agbo is a molecular biotechnologist and the Chairman and CEO of Fyodor Biotechnologies. His innovation, Urine Malaria Test (UMT), is a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes. Godwin Benson’s online platform Tuteria allows “people who want to learn any skill, whether formal or informal, to connect with anyone else in proximity who is offering that skill.” And Femi Odeleye is an automobile designer whose Tryctor is transforming small scale farming in Nigeria.

Ventures Africa caught up with these change makers as they prep ahead of IPA 2016 to find out their thoughts on being potential winners of the prestigious IPA award, their innovations, and their short and long term plans.

FEMI ODELEYE – Tryctor (Agriculture; smart solutions for farmers)

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What was your first thought when you learned that you were being considered for the Innovation Prize for Africa 2016?

Femi Odeleye (FO): Naturally, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of joy, achievement, and privilege to represent my country and be selected as one of the 10 best innovators in Africa.

VA: What has been the critical response to your innovation thus far?

FO: It has been extremely positive and [people are] enthusiastic about the possibilities of a new revolution which will contribute to the end of the pressing mechanization problems currently experienced in African agriculture.

VA: What has been the commercial response to your innovation thus far?

FO: We have already sold 10 units and are currently concluding our last test pilot schemes in Nigeria. The exposure from being a nominee of the IPA has resulted in a huge amount of enquiries pouring in by the day and we are confident to receive a sizable number of orders before the year runs out.

VA: What pressing project of yours would the IPA prize go towards if you win it?

FO: It will surely go towards the further development of the Tryctor with emphasis on facilitating the final drive needed to push the Tryctor commercially into the market.

VA: Are you planning to use your skill and experience in automobile design to advance Nigeria’s auto industry in the future, or is the agricultural sector your sole interest?

FO: Most definitely, my ultimate intention is to contribute to the development of the Nigerian Automotive industry. It has always been a childhood dream of mine to design vehicles for Nigeria. Building a tractor is already a step in this direction, of which I’m extremely grateful to God for.

GODWIN BENSON – Tuteria

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VA: What was your first thought when you learned that you were being considered for the Innovation Prize for Africa 2016?

Godwin Benson (GB): I was really excited to learn that I was one of the nominees for the IPA 2016. When I got the news of my nomination, my team and I, had a little celebration in the office! We were grateful, and also inspired. This was my second application. I had applied in 2015, but wasn’t selected. This made me feel that we actually had a chance at succeeding in Africa.

VA: What has been the critical response to your innovation thus far?

GB: Well, the concerns people have expressed towards the innovation has been around safety and quality of tutors. However we have put some measures in place to keep Tuteria safe for both tutors and clients. First of all, all tutors must verify their online and offline identities before they can even begin the application process. They supply us with their government issued IDs, personal details as well as profile photo, and also connect to one of their social networks.

We manually review all the details and information from all three sources must match before they can even proceed. Those who can’t provide these requirements or whose information is not consistent, are automatically denied. We also partnered with a background check company to conduct background checks on tutors, at the request of clients – they do criminal record check and address verification check. We also get references and guarantors for each tutor, who are respected persons that can vouch for the tutors’ conduct and personality. We also have a slightly different process for verifying the guarantors.

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Also, after every lesson, we give clients and tutors opportunities to review each other which will be publicly displayed on their profiles. So clients can feel safer when they see reviews from a few clients who have engaged a tutor in the past

Moreover, for most subjects, tutors have to pass various competency tests and write about their experience with the subject and/or provide supporting documents to prove their proficiency e.g. an ICAN tutor would need to send us his/her ICAN certification etc.

VA: What has been the commercial response to your innovation thus far?

GB: The fact is, many people need tutoring, so we have seen huge demand for private lessons. Since we launched in October of 2015, we have received over 16,000 tutor applications, out of which we have approved a little over 6000 tutors, and have received about 2500 requests from interested learners across the country worth about $300,000.

Some requests have led to actual sales, about $75,000.

VA: What pressing project of yours would the IPA prize go towards if you win it?

GB: First would be office infrastructure and team expansion, and then marketing – a lot of targeted marketing. Along with these, we will also invest in developing the product and building technologies to improve the quality and variety of services available to our users.

VA: Will Tuteria be restricted to students in academic institutions alone? If no, are there any future plans to expand the model to suit vocational learning? And how achievable is the concept, in your opinion?

GB: Tuteria is not restricted to students alone, even right now. We already offer tutoring for vocational skills such as Makeup, Bead Making, Cooking, Fashion Designing etc. Although we focus mostly on academics, we’ve also had a number of students for non-academic and skill acquisition subjects. There however has to be a few modifications to our current model in order to suit vocational learnings.

For example, our current model uses per hour billing, but most vocation trainings, at least here in Nigeria, do not have the concept of per hour billing. Such trainings are usually billed for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months etc. So while we’re focusing on academics, we’re also building out another model to support vocation trainings.

EDDY AGBO – Urine Malaria Test (UMT)

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VA: What was your first thought when you learned that you were being considered for the Innovation Prize for Africa 2016?

Dr. Eddy Agbo (DEA): First was astounding disbelief, then I was like, “waoh, thank God!” It is really such a great honor to be considered for this high profile prize.

VA: What primary action are people expected to take after they use the Urine Test for Malaria and are positively diagnosed?

DEA: Already, for most people with fever, they just treat or are treated for malaria without knowing whether it’s due to malaria or not. What the UMT does is to provide that clarity, so that when positive, the person or healthcare provider knows for sure what they are treating. They can just buy an anti-malaria medicine, which does not require a doctor’s prescription in most African countries. So, no more guesswork!
To put this in context, imagine a mother in a Nigerian village whose child is sick. Maybe the fever and malaise are caused by a virus and will pass in a day or two. Or, perhaps they are early signs of malaria requiring prompt medical attention. Should she and her child start the two-hour walk to the nearest clinic or medical lab, or gamble that she will soon be feeling better?

Now, imagine that she can avoid the dilemma altogether. From her cupboard, she takes a cardboard strip and dips it in a tablespoon of her child’s urine. If two lines appear on the strip, the child is positive for clinical malaria and the mother knows instantly that the infection very likely is malaria. If positive, then one issue is clear: it’s malaria. The mother can then walk to the nearest medicine store or clinic to buy the drug.

Now, further imagine that she can avoid this trek altogether by pulling out a pack of affordable artemisinin-based drug co-purchased with the UMT. This is our next focus!

VA: What has been the critical response to your innovation thus far?

DEA: We have been receiving a lot of requests from healthcare providers and policy makers on how/where they could get the UMT. University and hospital researchers are contacting us for samples to be used for their research.

VA: What has been the commercial response to your innovation thus far?

DEA: The response has been great. There have been a lot of interest and requests from companies and individuals in Nigeria and many other countries (including South Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, Brazil, India, Cote d’Ivoire, etc.) with expressions of interest to enter into marketing agreements with us.

We have been making presentations to healthcare providers, who have warmly welcome the UMT and are ordering the kits; they see they can now test all patients who come it with fever. They see that this brings immense value to their practice, and enhances best practices and standard of care; they see they can now test all patients first in a simple non-invasive (painless) manner, thereby increasing their patient experience. Individuals also see the simplicity of the UMT and are ordering and using the test in increasing numbers. Our current task in Nigeria is increasing the awareness about the UMT.

VA: What pressing project of yours would the IPA prize go towards if you win it?

DEA: With the IPA prize (oh my God!), we will move very quickly to expand UMT introduction into other African countries. This process will require some steps including regulatory registrations and approvals in selected countries, identifying sales and marketing partners in the countries, modifications to product packaging to conform each individual country requirement, and sales and marketing effort (awareness) in the respective countries. Our goal is to get the UMT in the hand of every African who needs it within the shortest possible time, and the IPA Prize will definitely help make that happen speedily!

VA: Is Fyodor planning to replicate its success with malaria testing in other parts of the health sector?

DEA: Yes, we are planning on developing a non-blood urine test for Ebola. This is particularly urgently needed because during the last outbreak in West Africa that killed thousands of people in a very short time, many patients with fever during the period were automatically considered Ebola in the absence of a thorough check. The fact of the matter was health care providers were avoiding patients with fever-related symptoms, while at the same time patients with such symptoms were avoiding health facilities with the fear that they would be diagnosed with Ebola. Some patients with malaria who went to the healthcare center caught Ebola there. Healthcare providers did not want to do a blood test because they could be infected it is Ebola. Urine is safe to test as Ebola virus is no found in urine, so in Ebola outbreak situations, the UMT will be immensely helpful; people can test themselves in the comfort of their home.

We are also developing another urine test that can be used to test for a set of 5 diseases, to confirm which of the diseases is causing the fever, using only one urine sample.

Source: ventures

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Written by PH

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