Lilian Makoi: If it is not new, risky & disruptive, we don’t put our efforts to it

Lilian Makoi
@lilly_makoi of @jamiiafrica is bringing affordable health insurance to Tanzania Click To Tweet

Lilian Makoi is doing her part to transform her country through innovative solutions. Although she’s co-founded a number of start-ups but our main focus here is Jamii Africa. Jamii Africa is a start-up that provides health insurance targeted at Tanzania’s low income population.

Most start-ups may want to target a middle-class population but Lilian sees profit in those that earn less than $70 a month. The numbers add up, that’s 47 million people compared to 10,000. When Lilian isn’t doing her best to improve the health care of Tanzanians through Jammii, she’s a mentor. Lilian and her husband form a formidable duo, recognising opportunities and investing in them.

What is health insurance like in Tanzania and how has Jamii Africa impacted on it?

In Tanzania, the penetration of health insurance is as low as 4.5% and this makes the formal sector its only population. The main reason they have health insurance is because they get it as benefit from the employer.

The middle income population that can afford healthcare financing anyways make 19.6% of the population.76% are the low income population —from the informal sector, struggling with healthcare financing.

This low income population earns less than $70 a month. For them, income is also dynamic and savings is a luxury. This population ends up facing high rate of maternal deaths, home births and deaths from curable diseases.

Jamii comes as the much needed solution to this ignored population. Our mobile technology performs all the administration activities of the insurer. Jamii is also matched in strategic partnership with Jubilee Insurance and Vodacom. This helps cut insurance administration cost by 95%!

In all, this results in a health insurance product at $1 a month. It immediately makes health insurance affordable to 47 million people in just Tanzania! Jamii is already impacting the lives of over 8,000 families.

Lilian Makoi: It took us over 10 meetings to get Vodacom Tanzania’s buy in to Jamii Click To Tweet

How did you manage to crack partnerships with Jubilee Insurance and Vodacom Tanzania?

We had a great product and knew how to communicate the value we were set to bring to them as partners. All we needed was a platform to communicate this to them.

Although it wasn’t easy, we managed to get their attention through constant persuasion and personal branding to establish relevance.


Why target the low income population in particular? How do you make a profit doing so?

We are passionate about the low income population. First, they have real problems and that means we are solving real problems. This gives us purpose and global impact in all we do.

Second, it is where the money is! We make profit, although marginal but it is income from over 47 million people compared to ‘big chunks’ from just 10,000 people!

@lilly_makoi - The low income population is where the money is! Click To Tweet

What does innovation mean to you? What would you say is unique about your approach to innovation?

We live to and for innovation! If it is not new, risky and disruptive, we don’t put our efforts or energy to it!

We believe that, it is only Africans that can change Africa for the better. So long as no one is doing anything ‘different’, we will always be a culprit of copycat products and solutions for problems that are not even ours.

We love to be pioneers to building highly innovative original solutions and understand the rewards of doing so.

What does it take to build a micro-health insurance product in an African country?

Four things;

  • A very innovative team,
  • Tons of research,
  • A great insurance partner,
  • A strong telecom partner and
  • Atop class product!
Women should understand what they are passionate about & work towards monetising it Click To Tweet

What will you need to go live in 14 other markets in Africa and impact 3 million lives in 2017?

We will need to partner with multiple local companies in these markets. These partners should already have relationships with telecom operators in their markets and have fair understanding of the insurance landscape.

We are close to finalising a partnership with two local companies outside Tanzania that have strong relationships with stakeholders in the identified markets. We expect to finalise ground work required by May 2017 and go live before the end of the year.lilian-present

You’ve co-founded two other companies, what goes into your decision to work on other start-ups? Will you advice other women to follow your footsteps?

I have co-founded two other companies and a lot more will come. I have the privilege of working with my husband who is as innovative. We enjoy researching and building solutions together, and mentoring people. We naturally spot opportunities and visualise solutions. Then we choose to either implement directly or pick young passionate talent to mentor through building these solutions.

I definitely advice women to spend time understanding what they are passionate about and work towards acquiring skills to monetise their passion. I believe women that have had the privilege to education and/or exposure pursue bigger/newer/innovative business than what we have been taught to aspire. If you can, lets change the world!

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