Since childhood, I’ve always wanted to change the world. At the time I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but as I grew older, I began to understand that changing the world meant making it better than I had met it. When it was time to go to University, I chose to study medicine because I had concluded that this was the best way for me to make a difference.
Medical school taught me many things; hard work, perseverance and most of all discipline. Very early on in medical school, however, I began to see the challenges in our current ways of handling health and disease. Nigeria, like many other African nations, places a lot of emphasis on curative medicine rather than preventive medicine, which takes care of the problem at the source. This manifests in our not so flattering maternal and child health indices. According to UNICEF, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of child bearing age every single day, making Nigeria the second largest contributor to maternal and child mortality in the world. In medical school, I also discovered that a major cause of maternal and child mortality is that most mothers in Nigeria’s rural communities often lack information about what services they need, what they can do, how often they should do it, and when they need to seek health services. Thus, the ‘traditional’ means of ensuring access to health care had become grossly inadequate. Innovative and cost-effective solutions had to be found that can empower and engage pregnant women and mothers on antenatal and postnatal care, as well as child care.
By my final year of medical school, I had become fascinated with mobile health (mhealth) and what it was achieving in other African countries like South-Africa and Kenya. It was at this point that I started putting together plans to start a company that would provide mhealth solutions for Nigeria. I co-founded the company with my class mate at the time, Dr Emmanuel Owobu. Apart from being very excited about the potential of mhealth to tackle our maternal and child health problems, he was also very knowledgeable about mobile health. However, since we didn't have the technological expertise, we needed to find a co-founder with the necessary technology experience and skills. While representing Nigeria at the Global Startup Youth 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I met Raman Anurag, a young software engineer and all-round technology genius. Talking over coffee one day about our mhealth project, he decided to join the team and together, the three of us co-founded MOBicure.
MOBicure is a social enterprise that provides mobile technology solutions in healthcare to help solve some of the most pressing health issues plaguing Nigeria and other developing countries. Our vision is to bring about a paradigm shift in the health care system of Nigeria, and the rest of the developing world, by using mobile technology to improve the lives of people by bringing health care to their fingertips.
Our flagship product is the multi-award winning mobile platform called OMOMI. OMOMI (meaning ‘my child’) is a mobile health platform consisting of an app, a web platform and an SMS service. The platform enables mothers and expectant mothers to monitor their children's health, as well as provide access to relevant maternal and child health information plus medical expertise, all at the touch of a button. The OMOMI SMS service is proudly supported in Nigeria by the U.S. State Department, and the service already has over 4,500 users (mostly lower income mothers in the rural areas) across the country after five months of operation.
The success of OMOMI, particularly the SMS service, has been due to in large parts the help of the Center for Health Market innovations’ (CHMI) Learn and Launch program. When we first started the company, there was a low acceptance of our new services, as people were sceptical about a new way of receiving healthcare information, and mothers were already comfortable with more “traditional” methods of healthcare delivery. Through CHMI’s Learn and Launch, the OMOMI SMS service has been able to adopt an aggressive and out-of-the-box marketing approach, which has rapidly increased our subscriber base.