Temie Giwa-Tubosun, whose company LifeBank delivers blood to in-need hospitals in Nigeria, took first place in Jack Ma’s inaugural Africa Netpreneur Prize contest on Saturday (17 November) during a five-hour finale taped for TV in Accra, Ghana.
Giwa-Tubosun pitched her way to a $250,000 cash prize over the course of eight months, beating out about 10,000 other applicants from 50 of Africa’s 54 countries to be named “Africa’s Business Hero.”
While the entries were whittled down to a semifinal round of 20 and then the final 10, who came to the Ghanaian capital to make their final pitches to four judges – including Jack Ma – in front of a television audience, Giwa-Tubosun’s focus on building an efficient delivery network for critical medical products stood out.
“It was an incredible honour to be named Africa’s Business Hero. I was truly inspired by my fellow winners at today’s Netpreneur Summit. The Africa Netpreneur Prize will give me the resources to grow LifeBank and expand our presence in Nigeria and throughout the rest of Africa. I look forward to continuing my journey to solve problems and make a significant impact on the future of Africa,” she said.
Giwa-Tubosun decided to launch LifeBank after a difficult child birth while visiting her parents in the US, in 2014. A postpartum hemorrhage caused extensive blood loss, a condition that may have killed her in her native Nigeria. That realization prompted her to build a business that would deliver blood – as well as oxygen, platelets, plasma and vaccines – to hospitals to help reduce these risks for other patients.
“LifeBank is really about delivering critical medical supplies when they’re needed. We like to say that we stand in between death and quite a lot of people in Nigeria,” she said. “So, this [prize] is just validation for the critical work that we do.”
Jack Ma was inspired to create the contest during his first trip to Africa, in 2017, after meeting entrepreneurs who he said had the same energy and passion that he had when launching Alibaba nearly 20 years before. While few people were willing or able to help Ma and his team in 1999, he said that he was now in a position to help Africa’s entrepreneurs and committed to doing so.
The Netpreneur Prize – which is put up by Ma’s philanthropic organization, the Jack Ma Foundation, and four African partners – will award $1 million a year for the next 10 years to support the small businesses, grassroots communities and women-founded enterprises that are growing the continent’s nascent digital economy. The annual pitch competition is open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries, and all industry sectors are eligible.
The show, “Africa’s Business Heroes” will air on ROK 3 on DSTV on Dec. 13 and NOVELA and Sports Focus on StarTimes on Dec. 14. Applications for next year’s contest will open in the first half of 2020, the Jack Ma Foundation said.
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