Lilian Makoi has a mission to put micro-health insurance in the hands of low income earners and informal sector players in Africa. Since launching the $1 a month, mobile micro-health insurance product tailored for the poor in Tanzania in January 2015, Makoi has explored the possibilities of taking the solutions across Africa with Kenya and Congo DRC already in sight. Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, and Ghana are also billed for a 2017 launch of Jamii Africa. In a continent where insurance policies are elitist and accidents claim lives because hospitals won’t attend to victims without payments, Jamii is disrupting how citizens are insured and how emergency healthcare reaches the most vulnerable. A short interaction at this year’s Sahara Sparks in Dar es Salaam and an ‘e-interaction’ later helped to provide deeper insights into Makoi’s mission. As a founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of a startup that is redefining how more than 70% of the continent’s 1.2 billion people could leverage technology to improve access to insurance and health, Makoi tells IT Edge News, Olusegun Oruame, technology is an enabler to closing Africa’s health gaps.
What are the core benefits of using solution to an average Tanzanian – what’s disruptive about Jamii?
Jamii enables Tanzanian families that make less than $70 a month access and afford health insurance at just $1 a month! It is a mobile micro-health insurance product 100% tailored for the low income and informal sector families! Our Mobile policy management platform, performs ALL administration activities of the insurer, cutting down Insurance administration costs by 95% which now allowed our insurance underwriter/parent quote affordable policies for our target market. Apart from that, our 100% paperless and 100% cashless insurance product enables users to easily register to Jamii product from wherever they are using the USSD technology and pay for their premiums via M-Pesa/ mobile money. Making Jamii the most convenient health insurance product to the customer, hospital and product partners.
It’s no easy ride doing business here – what challenges do you face as a startup?
Running a startup is a nightmare! Much of my experience forming and running Jamii as a company was not things I had foreseen, always caught off guard! The capital raising hustles, forming a solid team, scoring partnerships with multinationals to self-doubts have been a big learning and great experience for me. But in the end, it is worth it! Jamii still keeps me up at night (gladly!) and is the first thing I think of in the morning and the feeling of each mile stone is beyond satisfying!
The biggest challenges have been access to capital, with no local angel investors, it really is difficult, as well as access to quality accelerators that take up startups at really early stage to equip founders with the right knowledge and skills to properly form a compelling product/ team and vision which you really need to be able to attract partners, clients, and investors.
Where has support been coming from – Who has been looking at Jamii in terms of technical and investment/financial support?
The good thing is there is the internet! For me, I spent and still spend a lot of time looking out for opportunities through accelerators/ investors/ mentorship to grants online! Through this, managed to get accelerated by Techstars Africa which played a major role in building me/ my team and my product to what we are today through trainings, pitch fests, mentorships, and introductions. We were then accelerated further by Seedstars, who apart from mentorship also gave us actual funding to grow our company! From that, we have been growing and receiving multiple investment help we have the luxury to accept or decline!
Getting these opportunities isn’t easy either, I literally applied close to 40 programmes to get accepted into 5 and picked 2 to go with. So that was 35 declined emails, but you need to be passionate enough to persevere! And really really pray and have God on your side! And of course a good product and team.
What next for Jamii – Are you looking at expanding to other countries/markets even as you work on stabilising market acceptance and reach in Tanzania?
To me, Jamii has just started! We are aggressively expanding to more regions in Tanzania and already set to launch Jamii for the Kenya and Congo DRC markets with amazing partnerships this year!! Three more countries in Africa will launch Jamii early next year with major support from Seedstars!
“The biggest challenges have been access to capital, with no local angel investors, it really is difficult, as well as access to quality accelerators that take up startups at really early stage to equip founders with the right knowledge and skills to properly form a compelling product/ team and vision”
Did you achieve your objectives at Sahara Sparks?
Sahara Sparks was amazing! First world class event hosted in Tanzania by Tanzanians, it was really, really exciting for me to watch this happen! It was also the first time I had the opportunity to share the Jamii experience with the Tanzania audience, something that I was not able to achieve before because there was no platform to do so! So I achieved the objective to inspire Tanzania youth and women, something I have been keen to do. I was also able to make amazing connections that are set to bring to birth new partnerships and investment from the Sahara Sparks crowd!