In the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, a little child named Fortune battled the grips of Malaria, trapped in the clutches of poverty that denied him access to crucial healthcare. His mother kept him at home hoping that he would get better. Days have gone by but Fortune’s condition became worse; it was too late by the time he went to the hospital.
This anecdote was shared by Ikpeme Neto (MD) during the grand finale of African Business Heroes (ABH) 2023—a competition that has become a platform not only for recognition and financial support but also for cultivating an ecosystem that brings out sustainable impact and positive change.
In a poignant moment, Ikpeme shared his realisation that people were not avoiding doctors due to needle phobias but rather out of financial constraints. Many, like Fortune’s family, opted to wait it out, relying on home remedies and prayers. It casts a spotlight on the formidable challenges faced by countless individuals across the African continent when it comes to securing adequate medical attention.
The compassionate internal medicine specialist with a fervent desire for positive change returned to Nigeria with a mission, after witnessing the dire struggles of his people. Despite a successful career in New Zealand, he bought a one-way ticket, determined to address the systemic issues that denied people the right to quality healthcare. He recounted the harrowing experience of his mother unable to afford healthcare which has become the driving force behind his commitment to making a difference through innovation.
His company, WellaHealth Technologies, took centre stage with a revolutionary approach. For less than one dollar a month, WellaHealth aims to provide microinsurance, particularly targeting those on the lower economic curve. The company strategically reduces the role of physicians for selected diseases, partnering with local pharmacies to ensure people receive timely and affordable treatment. Partnering with over 2,000 pharmacies and 25 insurance companies, revenues are generated from subscriptions and premium fees.
WellaHealth’s potential impact on a broader segment of the population earned Ikpeme the grand prize of 300,000 dollars. His journey illuminated the entrepreneurial path, emphasising the importance of making difficult decisions promptly and being proactive. Committing to his vision goes beyond rhetoric; he lives it every day, embodying the change he wishes to see.
The company has eight angel investors behind it and plans to expand across Africa with East Africa’s Kenya and Tanzania on their immediate radar. For new applicants, Ikpeme advises to focus on the impact they are making while confidently conveying the message to the judges.
“The credibility that comes with a win is worth giving it a shot,” he told Fortune.
In a country where physicians often sought better opportunities abroad, Ikpeme became the exception—a beacon of hope returning to make a difference. His connection to the struggles of his community resonated with the audience during the two-day finale in Kigali, Rwanda.
The entrepreneurial stage was set, and visions of change pulsated through the summit. Entrepreneurs pitched their innovative solutions to a distinguished panel of judges Diane Karusisi (PhD), president of Bank of Kigali; Ibukun Awosika, founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group and Joe Tsai, chairman of Alibaba Group.
The top three entrepreneurs engaged in a round table discussion with the judges, delving into the challenges of entrepreneurship, lessons learned, competitive edges, and long-term visions. Ikpeme emphasised the importance of making the most critical stakeholder in healthcare, his patients. This prompted a shift in perspective, with the judges advocating for the incorporation of family insights and priorities into entrepreneurial decisions, emphasising the lasting impact it can have on business.
Content retrieved from: https://addisfortune.news/industry-disruptors-africas-business-mavericks/.