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Funmi Adewara bags Forbes Women Africa Technology and Innovation Award

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By Kingsley Alumona


IN the last eight years, Dr Funmi Adewara has gradually built a name, career and global recognition for herself in the technology and health sectors. With the advancements of these sectors, she has managed to innovate and scale solutions that have offered thousands of Nigerians and other Africans easy access to healthcare services that are not only affordable but also convenient.

Adewara — a Nigerian United Kingdom-based Cambridge-trained medical doctor — is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mobihealth International, a digital health company registered in Nigeria and in the UK.

In recent years, with her telemedicine company, she has amassed many awards too many to mention.

Her most recent award, the Forbes Women Africa Technology and Innovation Award, was awarded to her by Forbes Women Africa, on the occasion of the 2023 International Women’s Day, whose theme was: DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. From the theme, one could infer that it was only natural that the Technology and Innovation Award given to Adewara by the Forbes Women Africa was timely, apt and befitting.

The Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit is an event that brings together the ‘who is who’ of female leadership on the continent and beyond — from the world of business, politics, art, sports, civil society and life.

According to the Managing Editor of Forbes Africa, Renuka Methil, Forbes Africa — which has won several awards for editorial excellence — believed in promoting female change-makers in business, society and life as visible role models for young people.

Methil added that, “as a group, through continued and consistent coverage, we have always strongly advocated the empowerment of women and girls in Africa.”

Also, according to Methil, the summit — which has gained reputation as a prestigious calendar event for high-profile women on the African continent and beyond — was themed ‘Women 3.0: The icons and ideas shaping Africa’.

Adewara noted that the Forbes Women Africa Technology and Innovation Award is a recognition of the work she has been doing through Mobihealth, an integrated telehealth company leveraging technology to democratise access to healthcare.

She further noted that Mobihealth enables patients to access medical care — consultations, prescription medicines, diagnostics, health education and training — through mobile phones, computers, and walk-in telehealth clinics integrated with solar, internet and AI-powered devices for vital signs and point-of-care ultrasound; with a subscription fees as low as N2,500 ($5) per year per person.

She stressed that the Forbes Award was definitely heartwarming and would provide more visibility for the work they are doing at Mobihealth.

“I was thrilled and honoured to be in the company of phenomenal women during the International Women’s Day celebration in Pretoria, South Africa, to receive the award,” she said. “This is a win for not just me alone, but for my supportive team at Mobihealth, for healthcare, and for women.”

Delivering her acceptance speech, Adewara thanked Forbes Africa for deeming her worthy for the 2023 Forbes Woman Africa Technology and Innovation Award.

“I must also give honour to whom it is due — my mother, never could anyone imagine that her name will be mentioned in a room filled with phenomenal women,” she said “I want to dedicate this award to Mrs Adenike Adewara, my dear mother, whose sacrifices and values instilled in me made it possible for me to get good education and to be able to stand before you all today.”

From left: Salima Mukansanga, winner of Forbes Woman Africa Sports Award; Renuka Methil, Managing Director of Forbes Africa; Dr Funmi Adewara, Founder/CEO Mobihealth, winner of Forbes Woman Africa Technology and Innovation Award, during the 2023 Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit held on March 8, 2023, in Pretoria, South Africa.

Adewara also seized the opportunity to encourage every woman and girl to believe in themselves.

“You are enough. You can do it. No one has the audacity to stop your dreams without your consent,” she added.

On how she founded Mobihealth International, Adewara stated that illnesses make people very vulnerable, and having access to quality medical care in a timely manner should not be a privilege, but a fundamental human right.

She further stated that Mobihealth was founded with focus and bias for Africa — because that was where the need was greatest and technology could help leapfrog them from their current challenges, especially with the massive shortage of doctors.

In her acceptance speech, Adewara narrated how she started Mobihealth during the darkest period of her life — that she was going through a divorce, an empty bank account, and nearly homeless with five-year old twin children in private school.

On how she was able to setup and fund Mobihealth, she stressed that founding a startup, especially in Nigeria and Africa, was unimaginable, that it was the craziest thing to do.

“I bootstrapped the company from my income as a doctor and some funding from friends and families,” she said. “However, at that stage, getting further funding proved difficult not just from Western investors but also biases from African investors too.”

She said Mobihealth Nigeria was the first to be incorporated in November 2017; whereas, Mobihealth United Kingdom, the parent company, was incorporated a year after. She added that the choice was strategic and had to do with investors’ perception and risks.

“We found out that having a UK presence gave us more validation and provided some comfort to investors,” she said. “Many who were reluctant to invest initially did come in once we had set up our UK branch.”

Also, while delivering her Forbes Women Africa Technology and Innovation Award speech, Adewara spoke on some of the barriers to capital access. She lamented that women face more scrutiny and biases than men during funding processes. She stated that women constantly have to prove themselves even when they deliver more metrics than their male counterparts.

According to her, some of the challenges most women face in their access to funds and capitals included socio-cultural barriers, sexism, sexual harassment, and the fact that the society seems okay with them doing small-scale enterprises and do not expect them to be talking about scaling into multi-million dollar businesses.

“It often feels like you are on trial,” she frowned. “As a woman, you have to prove what you have achieved. Investors focus more on the risks — whereas, for male founders, it is about what they can achieve, that is, the opportunities.”

Adewara’s advice for women and youth planning to set up their own businesses was this: believe in yourself. You can do it. Do not let fear keep you back.

“No one starts a venture knowing it all or having everything in place,” she said. “As former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. The size of your dream must exceed your current capacity to achieve them.’”

During the Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit, Adewara was among the over 50 speakers who spoke on the theme of the event. She was also in an interactive panel session titled ‘Citadels of Power: The West African Renaissance’.

According to the organisers, some of the speakers expected to speak at the event included: Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 24th President of Liberia; Patricia Scotland, 6th Commonwealth Secretary-General and the first-ever woman to hold the position.

Others included Tunde Oyeneyin, Nigerian American Peleton instructor, trainer and motivational speaker; Thembi Kgatlana, South African soccer player; Unathi Mtya, group chief information and digital officer at African Bank; Fatima Babakura, founder of Timabee and Yerwa Secrets; Nonkululeko Gobodo, CEO of Awakened Global; Aisha Ayensu, Creative Director of Christie Brown; Salma Rhadia Mukansanga, Rwandan international football referee listed with FIFA; among others.




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