By Kylie Kiunguyu
LifeBank, a Nigerian startup founded by Temie Giwa-Tubosun, is a social enterprise focused on developing a better way of delivering blood to hospitals in Lagos. Using WHO-approved equipment, LifeBank has transported about 9 000 pints of blood and saved more than 2 000 lives.
According to Nigeria’s health ministry, the country requires up to 1.8 million units of blood every year to cater for the over 180 million population. The National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) is collecting 500 000 pints of blood annually, which is a shortfall of nearly 75%. This inadequacy in blood supply contributes to the maternal mortality rate, which stands at 814 deaths per 100 000 live births.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, the founder and CEO of LifeBank, is an experienced health supply chain professional with 12 years’ experience in organisations such as DFID and the World Health Organisation. She started LifeBank to ensure safe blood supplies and medical products, including oxygen and vaccines, are delivered to hospitals and those in need using smart solutions. These solutions include mobile and web technology, shrewd logistics and artificial intelligence to not only build an end-to-end marketplace but also cold chain logistics.
According to the Guardian, LifeBank has 40 blood banks and 300 hospitals on its platform. The team sorts orders based on urgency, location and price and keeps its blood deliveries at the optimal 10 degrees Celcius. For delivery, the blood boxes are dispatched by riders that can be opened by the recipient only via a Bluetooth connection or key.
“My goal for LifeBank is to ensure that it can save as many lives as possible for as long as possible. We hope to be in every African city and be able to reach every village and town across the continent, saving lives by moving these essential medical products to hospitals,” Giwa-Tubosun told African Lionesses. “I have a conviction that businesses with a social mission will save the world and I set out to prove this with LifeBank.”
Her dedication to providing this service is fuelled by her desire to give society’s more vulnerable citizens a fair chance at medical intervention. “It is true that a shortage of blood at the point of care deeply affects the most vulnerable citizens – pregnant women, children, emergency victims and people suffering from chronic diseases such as sickle cell anemia and cancer,” she continued.
Since 2012, Giwa-Tubosun’s organisation has aimed to get one percent of the Nigerian population to give blood at least three times a year. This is especially important as only 10% of donated blood in the country is from volunteers as opposed to the 60% from remunerated parties, according to the health ministry.
“We do not have a system of people coming altruistically to donate blood. What we have is a large percentage of family replacement and commercial donor system. “We cannot tackle this problem by acting in the health sector alone because there are socio-cultural perspectives on blood. In some cultures, blood is seen as the life of the person. It is associated with all kinds of mythologies and symbolism,” Obiageli Nnodu, the director of the Centre for Sickle Cell Disease Research and Training at the University of Abuja, told the Guardian.
However, Giwa-Tubosun argues that the problem is not only a shortage of blood but also a lack of accessibility. “The issue was not just the shortage of blood but also the lack of communication to know who has the blood type you need, and the lack of infrastructure to move the blood to where it is needed on time and in the right condition. I built LifeBank to solve both those problems,” she told African Lionesses.
With no past experience in entrepreneurship, the visionary CEO has a simple piece of advice for women venturing into social enterprise: “You are the right person to change the world, so just start.”