10 entrepreneurs to watch in 2020  

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The country has earned the position owing to a growing number of entrepreneurs, its population size and increasing number of start-ups support organisations active in the ecosystem.

As a result, yearly, we are seeing more innovative entrepreneurs providing solutions to societal problems, causing disruption in their sectors while creating jobs.

On this note, Start-Up-Digest takes a look at some of these start-ups who will make some serious waves in the country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem in 2020. The criteria used in our assessment include, but not limited to, growth, social and economic impact, international recognition, expansion, structure of business, and potential for growth. The entrepreneurs are not in any particular order.

Chibuzo Opara, DrugStoc

Getting quality medicines is not always easy in a developing country like Nigeria.

But the situation is gradually changing with the entry of DrugStoc, a multi-channel, cloud-based platform with over 7,000 high-quality drugs, co-founded by Chibuzo Opara.

The platform exists to empower healthcare providers to fulfil their mandate for a healthier Africa. Opara’s DrugStoc seeks ways to improve access to pharmaceutical products and services.

Opara, managing partner and co-founder of DrugStoc, says the company exists to solve the problems of fragmented supply chain market, counterfeiting and in-transparent pricing.

Opara is a medical doctor and health economist. His co-founder Adham Yehia is an expert in health facilities management. Both of them met in the Netherlands while doing their post-graduate studies.

“By the time I got back to Nigeria, I had already met my partner. We started doing management consulting for a group of healthcare facilities and found out that sourcing quality medication and medical consumables was not optimised for the health provider. It was a lot of work finding and sourcing the right medication these facilities requested,” he says.

“Back then, sourcing for medication for the facilities we managed proved challenging. If you asked us the difference between this and that drug, we would be unable to give you the assurance regarding the quality of the drugs. This was unacceptable to us, but we decided to take on the challenge head on,” he recalls.

Sourcing drugs from DrugStoc is a simple process: You go on the platform, place an order and within 24 hours the products will be supplied, according to Opara. The platform offers a myriad of payment, credit and financing solutions which are adapted to the realities of the pharmaceutical supply chain in the country.

The drug firm works with over 800 pharmacies and with the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, which has over 2,000 registered members.

The firm deploys artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology to enhance its track and trace capability with a view to sanitising the system.

“What we do is to streamline the whole area by offering them value in terms of being able to get access to quality drugs,” he says.

The growth of the company has been tremendous since 2017. So far, the amount of prescriptions through hospitals and pharmacies that the firm serviced in the last two years has exceeded two million.

Opara reminds Nigerians that DrugStoc’s products are not expensive because of the firm’s advantage of doing huge volumes.

Adepeju Jaiyeoba, Mothers Delivery Kits

It takes courage to move from law to health. Jaiyeoba studied Law at Obafemi Awolowo University. But she has decided to move to the health sector to make a difference.

In 2011, she had an unforgettable experience that later became an inspiration. She lost a close friend at child birth. Her friend had a good job, financial power and exposure, yet died at child birth. This made her wonder what women in rural communities without money, education and good jobs could be going through.

“When you see numbers, those are just numbers,” she tells Start-Up.

“It is when you knew one person who died at child birth that you would know that no one was immune to dying at child birth. My friend was educated, working class, had information and the financial power to seek good healthcare, but she still died at child birth. It made me wonder what could be happening at rural communities where people would not have access to all these sterile facilities,” she says.

She thereafter went to rural communities and saw things herself. The difference, however, is that she decided to do something about that.

In 2014, she founded Mothers Delivery Kit to reduce maternal mortality in rural communities. Maternal mortality in Nigeria was 814/10,000 live births in 2014 so she needed to do something to reduce this phenomenon.

“We connect women in rural areas to life-saving supplies they need at child birth. We work with women in these communities because we believe the location of a woman at child birth or her economic status in life should not be a factor in determining whether she lives or dies at child birth. The kit is an assembly of all the things which a woman needs at child birth. It is aimed at fighting the issue of accessibility and affordability of sterile equipment during child birth,” she explains.

She has different manufacturing partners in Nigeria who supply her with the content of the delivery kits. In some cases, she and her team design particular sterile equipment and then ask manufacturers to produce in large quantity.

The kits are, however, not completely free. They are sold in different rural communities at the cost of $5.

“Women within the communities also sell the kits to traditional birth attendants, birthing homes, primary healthcare centres and other areas. From the sales of these kits, these women are also able to get incomes, support their families, start new businesses or pursue new dreams or even send their own children to school,” she says.

She does not just give out kits. She tries to establish contact or relationship with the ultimate consumer of the goods. And one way in which she does that is by training birth attendants.

“We have different trainings categories to different birth attendants. Our focus is on two lowest cadres of healthcare: Community extension workers and traditional birth attendants.

Since 2014 when the mother of two boys started till July 2019, she has sold over 500,000 kits across 346 communities in Nigeria.

“We have returning customers and those who order in large quantity or demand customisation of packs,” she explained.

So far, the growth has been rapid. In 2014, she started in two communities and had only 30 kits. This has moved to 346 communities now and over 500,000 kits. “Right now, we are looking into new product developments,” she said.

She has been developing herself since then. Through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she has studied Business and Entrepreneurship at University of Texas, Houston. Thereafter, she interned at the Maternal and Child Health section of the United Nations Foundation.

She has also been privileged to receive the support of the United States African Development Foundation in kicking off Mother’s Delivery Kits.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, LifeBank

Giwa-Tubosun is the founder and CEO of LifeBank, a start-up that works with hospitals to find lifesaving medical products. She came to continental limelight in November 2019 after winning Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI). $250,000 in Ghana.

LifeBank has saved many lives, providing blood and other health services during emergencies. The start-up has an app that connects hospitals with available blood supplies, and has developed what is known as SmartBag tag, a blockchain-powered system that tracks the safety record of the blood. It likewise has an app that allows blood donors to register and book appointments at blood banks closest to them. It has distributed over 16,000 units of blood, registered more than 3,500 donors, and worked with over 400 hospitals to save more than 4,500 lives, BusinessDay found.

“I look forward to continuing my journey to solve problems and make a significant impact on the future of Africa,” she said after the prize in Ghana.

Abasi Ene-Obong, 54gene

Abasi Ene-Obong left his role as a management consultant in the pharmaceutical sector to move back to Nigeria to build Africa’s first biobank.

It was founded by the young entrepreneur in July 2019 to unlock the African genome and improve the understanding of the world’s most genetically diverse population.

Ene-Obong and his team are starting from the very beginning as there are no blueprints for biobank on the continent.

54gene partners with hospitals and research institutions in African countries and with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to address the challenge of limited diverse genomics data, which may hold the key to medical discoveries and new healthcare solutions.

Backed by investors including Y Combinator, Fifty Years Ventures, Better Ventures, and KdT Ventures, 54gene aims to equilibrate healthcare for people of African origin while advancing the quality of medical care worldwide.

The business is looking radically to disrupt the $100billion global pharmaceutical industry.

Adetola Nola, Veritasi

In the highly competitive real estate business in Nigeria, it is difficult to stand out from the crowd. But this is certainly not the case for Adetola Rilwan Nola, founder of Veritasi Homes and Properties Limited.

Nola, 29, is a passionate entrepreneur on a mission to improve individuals’ wellbeing through the provision of affordable housing for low-income Nigerians.

He was listed as one of the Forbes Africa 120 Game Changers in 2019 and was inspired to establish Veritas Homes and Properties Limited in 2017 owing to his desire to help Nigerians own their homes.

Nola, a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, who once had a shoe factory, needed to sell his cars and factory machines and equipment to pursue his dream of providing affordable housing for Nigerians.

He started the business with a single employee but now has 18 full-time employees, 12,000 real estate consultants and 1,300 realtors. Veritasi Homes and Properties has empowered a lot of Nigerians and is poised to achieve more this year, as the number of homeless Nigerians continues to rise. According to statistics, the country needs 17 to 18 million housing units to meet the needs of homeless citizens, which places real estate firms like Veritasi on a good pedestal in 2020.

Anike Lawal, Mamalette

Many entrepreneurs are driven by a passion to solve societal problems. For Anike Lawal, chief operating officer, Mamalette, her driving force is to address issues with maternal health using the power of technology.

Through her online platform, Anike established a local health network for mothers in Africa by helping them find the right health information needed for their daily maternal health development.

Anike was inspired to establish Mamalette owing to her first experience as a mother. During her first pregnancy, the young entrepreneur was in dire need of a health platform to seek answers to questions on maternal health. Lack of such prompted her to establish Mamalette in 2013.

Since starting, Mamalette online maternal health network has grown and has reached over 40,000 mothers monthly. Since inception, over a million people have visited the site.

The business runs partnerships with some medical practitioners and health experts who provide responses to questions asked by mothers and would-be mothers on the platform.

Akomolafe Bankole, Akotex Group

Akomolafe Henrich Bankole is one of the most successful under-30 entrepreneurs in Nigeria. He is the managing director of Akotex Group, a conglomerate of four businesses across several industries, including real estate/construction, technology, escalator, elevator fitness, and wellness.

He was listed as one Forbes Africa 120 Game Changers in 2019. At 26, Bankole has made a considerable impact in the Nigerian business space.

He has constantly sought to develop his entrepreneurship skills to acquire greater heights with Akotex Group.

Given his meteoric rise over the past years, there is a chance that the business would soon become a top brand in the country and Africa at large.

His determination to succeed in life and desire to innovatively inspired the establishment of Akotex Nigeria Limited – his first arm of business in 2016.

Etop Ikpe, Cars45

Etop Ikpe is the founder of Cars45, Nigeria’s foremost and largest used car sales platform that runs local inspection centres in strategic locations around the country to help customers service their cars.

According to Forbes, Cars45 raised a $5 million Series A round from the Frontier Cars Group in May 2017.

Ikpe is a veteran entrepreneur with experience in transport, automobiles, mobile communications technology, and marketing.

Etop was previously the commercial director of Konga, one of Nigeria’s largest e-commerce platforms, and formerly the CEO and Co-MD of DealDey, West Africa’s answer to Groupon. Prior to that, Etop founded Tinker Bell Media LTD, which produced We Run the Game– a syndicated sports program broadcast terrestrially across 12 Broadcast Networks.

In 2018, he was listed as Forbes under 30 inspiring entrepreneurs in Africa. His businesses have provided thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.

Angel Adelaja, Fresh Direct

Angel Adelaja is the founder and chief executive of Fresh Direct, an environmentally friendly, organic agricultural production and processing company that also deals in manufacturing agricultural equipment and technology.

The farming aspect of the business uses new solutions such as hydroponics and vertical farming in the cultivation of crops.

Adelaja founded Fresh Direct in 2014, with a goal to make agriculture easy and fun for young people, empower them with employment and strengthen them to also be successful employers of labour.

Also, to make farming accessible to everyone to produce food even in cities.

She created a stackable container farm using shipping containers, where a single container can produce vegetables grown on one-and-a-half acres of land.

Fresh Direct also creates low-tech affordable technologies from indigenous materials to make farming simpler.

Wole Akeju, Redbox Deluxe

Every entrepreneur in Nigeria has a unique story to tell and usually an inspirational one of how their entrepreneurial journey started. For Wole Akeju, the founder of Redbox Deluxe Café, his inspiration was as a result of his passion for food.

Redbox Deluxe Café is a real celebration of Nigeria’s food industry, with its essence created from local and traditional ingredients that are unique. It provides 24 hours catering services to clients around Lagos metropolitan.

Through its Redbox Deluxe Café, Akeju is providing meals for Nigerians with busy schedules to eat regularly without having to skip a meal.

The business was launched in February 2019 and has since grown from a single outlet to four outlets now. It has partnered with Jumia and Opay Foods, among others, to ensure the effective delivery of food to its clients anywhere around Lagos and its environment.

The business has created employment for some Nigerians as it currently has 8 full-time and 25part-time employees.

Odinaka Anudu & Josephine Okojie.