‘Our big vision at MDaaS is to shift African healthcare from sick care to preventative healthcare for Africa’s next billion’
Amid challenges, the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize hosted its grand finale on November 28, 2020 and awarded US$1.5 million in grant funding to 10 finalists across Africa.
Nigeria’s Oluwasoga Oni, CEO and co-founder, MdaaS Global, emerged second-place in the continent-wide entrepreneur competition, winning $250,000. In this interview, the budding entrepreneur speaks to OBINNA EMELIKE on his feat, impact of the grant funding on his business, networking opportunities and impression of the competition, which is sponsored by Jack Ma Foundation.
Congratulations Oluwasoga Oni for flying the Nigerian flag at the recently concluded Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition. How do you feel as the second-place winner?
First of all thank you, it has been an amazing journey, the competition was quite challenging but I am very excited, and I feel privileged to be one of the winners. Throughout the competition, we were given the opportunity to tell our own stories, and over 22,000 contestants applied across the continent as we went through multiple interviews with different judges over the course of eight months. It is quite exhilarating to be one of the top finalists, particularly given how competitive it was. We are grateful for this opportunity that the Africa’s Business Heroes prize has provided to young entrepreneurs and businesses like ours.
Considering that over 22,000 entrepreneurs applied for the competition, including many from Nigeria, what do you think gave you an edge over the others?
I think that the ABH judges understood what we are doing and how crucial our purpose is, which is to improve the health infrastructure of the continent. They also saw the deep impact we are making in the communities we operate in. Throughout the competition, we made sure to tell a very concise narrative and show our impact. Given the impact of what we are building, combined with the narrative to tell what we are about, are what I believe set us apart.
What do you think Chebet Lesan, the first-place winner, did better to emerge the overall winner, and is there something to learn from the winning business model?
As initially mentioned, the competition was indeed challenging and for MDaaS to be 1st runners up is an honour. Chebet Lesan’s win is indeed well deserved. There is a lot to learn from her and her business. Her renewable energy company BrightGreen Energy, has impacted thousands of families in Kenya, which resulted in the creation of over 100 micro-enterprises in the country. I draw resilience and the importance of creating an impactful business, not only from her business model but from all the finalists who had the opportunity to present their models.
How are you going to use the $250,000 prize money?
We plan to use the funds to accelerate our growth as a company, building diagnostic facilities in more cities across Nigeria and further developing our technology infrastructure. Being an organisation that builds an upper diagnostic center, we are going to use these funds to build at least three or four additional diagnostic centers in tier 2 to tier 3 cities in Nigeria. We really want to continue doing the work we do and build more in these locations and bring high quality diagnostics to these communities and find more communities that need the kind of diagnostics that we provide. Our big vision at MDaaS is to shift African healthcare from sick care to more personalized, continuous, and preventative healthcare for Africa’s next billion.
MDaaS Global, your outfit, reaches out to clinically underserved communities to provide a world-class patient experience at highly affordable prices. How has the experience been since you started and with the prize money, are you going to reach out to more people?
Taking part in this competition has provided a great opportunity for me and my team to take a step back and view our business from different perspectives. I was inspired to start MDaaS to solve the challenges thousands of doctors across Africa face every day in accessing quality medical diagnostics for their patients. When I became aware of the status quo for diagnostics in Nigeria, I knew that there had to be a better way and I started to leverage my education and networks to make an impact not only in Nigeria my home country, but also across the continent. We plan on using the grant we have been awarded to accelerate the work that we do. The journey came with great learning lessons, which we will definitely draw from as we continue to reach out the underserved communities.
What was the experience like, networking with other African business owners at the competition?
The experience was indeed very eye-opening. Networking with business owners from different countries, knowing their challenges and what continues to drive them was encouraging and at the same time very exciting. These learnings are priceless and getting how different sectors are tackling different business challenges was valuable to MDaaS’s journey to growth.
How difficult or exciting did you find the pitching of entrepreneurial vision to the panel of distinguished judges for the competition?
Winning this competition was a team effort. My team helped me in preparing for each interview and supported me every step of the way. I feel lucky to have such a dedicated and hardworking team.
What are the key learnings and takeaways from the selection process? What feedback from the judges have resonated the most with you and what have you found most useful and will apply to your business?
One of the key lessons we learnt as part of this competition is to always be adaptable as things may evolve into challenges, particularly when we do not have control over them. As a business, I believe adaptability is crucial for any business seeking to make an impact now and in the future, especially during these unprecedented times.
You are aware that the competition is a 10-year commitment by The Jack Ma Foundation, to foster entrepreneurship across the continent. In your opinion, how can entrepreneurs be the catalyst for positive change in Africa? What support do they need?
I really appreciate the work that the ABH team has done to pull this continent-wide competition off in the middle of the pandemic and I feel privileged to be a part of the amazing community of budding entrepreneurs. Africa is on the rise, and entrepreneurs must strive to gain knowledge, educate themselves and keep up with new trends to stay competitive. I believe that aspiring young entrepreneurs should thoroughly study the market and consider innovative strategies and approaches, they also need to have the right knowledge, skills and resources to thrive and bring real change to the continent, while inspiring the next generations.