Why Sustainability Makes Good Business Sense

You’ve likely heard of business “going green.” From installing solar panels on rooftops, utilising recycling bins, and switching off lights after hours, there are a number of ways both employers and employees can adjust their behaviour to operate in an environmentally responsible way.

But that’s just one part of building a sustainable business. Along with environmental well-being, it’s also about social impact and economic viability. This could include skills training for employees, and improving the quality of life in the communities in which you operate in.


Sustainability at What Cost?

There’s often a misconception that sustainability initiatives are expensive and will erode profits. On the contrary, it has shown to be beneficial for business owners from the bottom-line up.

Using the example of Egyptian agri-business SEKEM, that used biodynamic agricultural methods to start Egypt’s first organic farm in the middle of the desert forty years ago, a Harvard Business Review article titled ‘Making Sustainability Profitable’ offers three approaches for companies  to ensure their environmental efforts pay off financially:

  • Many, like Sekem, took a long-term view, investing in initially more-expensive methods of sustainable operation that eventually led to dramatically lower costs and higher yields.


  • Others have taken a ‘bootstrap’ approach to conservation: they started with small changes to their processes that generated substantial cost savings, which they then used to fund advanced technologies that made production even more efficient.


  • Some have spread their sustainability efforts to the operations of their customers and suppliers, in the process devising new business models that competitors find hard to emulate.

You don’t need to incur high costs upfront, but rather adopt a model that works with your available resources, and adapt it to your sector.

That’s exactly what AccorHotels set out to do when they launched their internal sustainability management system, dubbed Charter 21, which recommends over 60 actions hotels can take to reduce their environmental footprint.

The French hotel chain group, that operates in over a dozen African countries, commissioned two independent studies to assess the financial return on a number of their sustainability initiatives. The first study focused on the corporate social responsibility expectations of the hotels’ B-to-B customers, while the second provided a statistical analysis of the influence of several sustainable development indicators on profitability and guest satisfaction. Both revealed that the more a hotel invests in initiatives that reduce their environmental footprint, the more positive its paybacks are, both in terms of (1) reducing costs of water and energy for example, and (2) increasing revenues partly due to enhanced reputation and guest satisfaction.


Other key takeaways:

  • Sustainability should not be viewed as a cost to the business.


  • Highly visible sustainability initiatives can be a very effective way to differentiate a company in the minds of customers and strengthen customer relationships.


  • Formal programmes that include specific, measurable objectives and a framework for managing progress towards achieving them are critical to making sustainability a core part of doing business.

Another core part is getting the buy-in from staff members. One of the key actions of AccorHotels’ Charter 21 is training employees in environmentally friendly practices.


Fostering a Culture of Sustainability

By encouraging employees to follow sustainable practices, it could soon become a norm that has a lasting impact in the workplace and in their private homes. Think about something as simple as using energy-saving bulbs at office desk lamps, or utilising reusable glass instead of plastic cups at the water cooler. Consider the possible knock-on effect if this results in a conscious behavioural change where the employee now turns the household water geyser off when not in use, or ploughs biodegradable kitchen scraps back into the garden instead of disposing as waste.

It’s this way of sustainable thinking that lead a turtle conservationist at Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium to start an eco-rooftop garden. Initially meant to feed the facilities’ green sea turtles, it soon evolved into a lush garden of waterwise indigenous plants and herbs that is shared among employees. Not a drop of water is wasted here, with the vegetation being nurtured by the condensation from nearby air conditioners. The sustainable rooftop garden now also functions as an oasis for employees during break time complete with recycled artwork, and a worm farm that feeds off lunch scraps which in turn becomes fertilizer that can be ploughed back into the garden.

Nurturing Community-Based (Business) Partnerships

Sustainability relates to the future of your company and the broader community. Consider the impact of procuring goods and services from local businesses, or spreading your sustainability efforts to the behaviour of your suppliers and customers.

Kenya-based ICOSEED (Integrated Community Organisation for Sustainable Empowerment and Education for Development) have successfully nurtured a mutually-beneficial relationship with local farmers. Winner of the 2017 SWITCH Africa Green-SEED Awards, they buy banana stems from farmers, process it into balls of fibre, and then use them to produce (biodegradable) products such as bags and table mats. They even take it a step further by giving the by-product (slurry) back to the farmers to use for biogas or compost. ICOSEED factors in all three key tenets of sustainability in that they’ve accounted for environmental well-being by producing environmentally friendly products and promoting the use of slurry for compost and biogas digesters; social impact by providing job opportunities for stem transporters and extractors along with an alternative source of income for hundreds of farmers; and economic value.

The company now plans to Increase the number of farmers supplying banana stems from 400 to 9,000 by 2018, scale up the production capacity of banana fibre by buying new machinery, diversify the product range, and establish two new production sites in key banana growing areas.

ICOSEED has adopted a sustainability model that works with their available resources. They’re now able to reap the rewards by funding the advanced technologies that will increase their production efficiency, while also spreading their sustainability efforts to the operations of their suppliers. They encapsulate the ideal of a sustainable business, where environmental well-being, social impact and economic viability are obtained, demonstrating that sustainability indeed does make good business sense.


Photo Credits:

AQUARIUM: Two Oceans Aquarium – www.aquarium.co.za

SEKEM: www.sekem.com

ICOSEED: https://www.facebook.com/www.icoseedkenya.org/




Dr Enibokun Orobator: Understand your workplace dynamics

Dr Enibokun Theresa Orobator is a young African doctor, a visionary and public health enthusiast. She works as a Medical Science Liaison officer in a multi-national pharmaceutical company.

Dr Orobator is also a student at the University of Edinburgh, a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) 2016 fellow, a KECTIL colleague and member of the Kectil youth leadership Council, and she was also a finalist for the McKinsey’s 2017 Next Generation Women’s leaders Award.

In this article, she shares insights about getting an entry level job and distinguishing yourself. 

How did you get your first job?

I got my first job in a very interesting way. I had just rounded up my national youth service and, I got a call from a colleague I had interned with, about a job opportunity. I took it, and had only worked for about 4 months before I got another call, from a recruitment agency, inviting me to come in for an interview in a pharmaceutical company, for my present job. The interview went very well and I was offered the position.


Did you meet resistance in the new workplace? 

Oh yes I did. Quite a lot of resistance actually.


Do you think it was because you were a young woman?

I was considered quite young and fairly green and thus, I did not come with much experience. This meant that I had to learn a lot on the job, gradually gain the respect of my colleagues, and earn my seat at the table.

I don’t think the resistance I met was as a result of the fact that I was a woman, although this may have also played some role. The ratio of male to female colleagues in the workplace is still disproportionate, this is why it has become necessary for young women to build themselves for success in the workplace.



How did you handle the resistance?

Well, truthfully, I was not prepared for the kind of resistance I encountered. I was brilliant and quick to learn, and ready to perform at my job, but, that was not all that was required. I had to go back to the drawing board, step back from myself and began to study both my work environment and my colleagues.

I began to understand what made my colleagues tick, what their interests were and how best to work with them. It required a lot of focus on the task to be accomplished and less on the personalities of those involved.

I read a lot, and took counsel from older colleagues. I prayed a lot for wisdom too. Basically, for me it was building emotional intelligence, improving my leadership skills and capacity to handle stress and still produce excellent results.


Go the extra mile. Seek to be the best in your area of interest Click To Tweet


What would you advise female job seekers?

My advice to young female job seekers is to build capacity. Opportunities always come, both to the prepared and the unprepared, but, only the prepared can make the most of the opportunity presented to them, to climb to the next level.

Go the extra mile. Seek to be the best in your area of interest. Keep learning, constantly seek to develop your skills set and your knowledge, so that when opportunities come, you will invariably make the most of it, because now you are prepared.

Also, do not limit yourself, search for opportunities actively, apply for the jobs you want, put yourself out there. It is also great to volunteer. You get to build your skill sets and build experience.

It is also important to make the most of your online presence. These are not the times to make posts on social media that you would regret later. Build your LinkedIn profile, take online courses, some of them are free, and network!

Let people know what you have interest in, you may never know who would be linking you to your next opportunity. Be resilient and persistent, be dogmatic and hold the faith.


Be resilient and persistent, be dogmatic and hold the faith. Click To Tweet



How can young women distinguish themselves after securing a job?

First of all, note that you may not get your ‘dream job’ in the first few years of your career. You make your current job your dream job, because, it is only when you can do your best at your present level that, you can either get promoted or be built up enough to establish your own business.

Work hard, work smart, and give your best. Work well with your team, understand your workplace dynamics and organisational structure to see how you can progress in the organisation. Always continue to develop your skills, experience and your knowledge and lastly, trust your process.


What can more young women do to position themselves rightly for future opportunities?

To position yourself rightly for opportunities, be thankful for all you have achieved. But, constantly appraise yourself and seek to always become better. Do your work well, and don’t stop learning. Realise that every achievement you have conquered is a step on a ladder. There is more, so never restrict yourself.


Any final words?

Trust your process. Every experience has a lesson in it, learn it so you don’t have to repeat the lesson again. Learn from others, both their successes and mistakes, remain teachable and know that with God, success is inevitable.

Do you have any tips on how to stand out and progress in the workplace?

Let us know more  here.

Carol Motolo: I want to be remembered as the person who helped others restore their faith in the Lord and themselves

Carol Natasha Motolo is a young dynamic visionary who has a soft heart for young girls who have been raped, molested or assaulted. She is an author, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and a student of life. She is the founder of the Carol Motolo Foundation a non- profit, faith based, community developmental organization. Which aims to create a safe environment where rape, injustice and other societal ills against women will be a thing of the past.

Carol spent years battling depression, abuse, making wrong decisions, and a preference for chaos and disaster. She did not have any tools to help her deal with her own emotions. But, a turning point in her life came when a few years ago she was able to let go of someone she thought she wouldn’t be able to live without.

As a form of catharsis, Carol has been using a journaling technique since she was 10 years old. This inspired her to write  a book came after living with the depression, being physically and emotionally abused,homeless, penniless, hopeless and giving birth to a premature baby. This was the ultimate test of her faith, but somehow, she Lived in Faith and overcame her battles, this led her to publish a self-help, personal development and motivational book titled Living in Faith.

It doesn't matter who you used to be. All that matters is who you are willing to become Click To Tweet


Tell us about Carol Motolo

Carol Motolo is an author, mother, photographer, entrepreneur and founder of the Carol Motolo Foundation.

What were you working on before starting your brand?

I was a full time mom and blogger.

What are two breakthroughs that lead you to transform your life?

My son getting out of hospital after being born premature and overcoming the trauma of being raped.

What are three things you gained and lost in the process of creating Living in Faith?

I lost a lot of friends. But i gained God’s love, grace, wisdom and to trust in God at all times.


I will walk by faith even when I can not see. Click To Tweet

What lead you to write Living in Faith?

I went through a lot when my son was born premature. At that point I turned to God for help and as a result my faith grew and i was brought closer to God. When my son finally became well I felt it was time to combine all i had written ; including how i overcame being abused and  raped.

After these kind of incidents a lot of women struggle to overcome and fully live their lives. I therefore felt that God was using me as a tool to assist those that have walked the same path as I have.

How did your journaling technique begin?

There comes a time in ones life when you just want to let go of the pain and resentment. I had reached that stage . So I began to write my experiences down and gradually found ways to let go and be a better person each day. Thank God because as time went by the process became easier and easier.

What keeps you going every day?

God ‘s presence in my life and my family; their support and faith in me really keeps me going, even in the hardest of times.

What projects are you currently working on under the Carol Motolo Foundation?

We are currently seeking donations and sponsors for our programme: Pens for a girl child. We’re also in talks with the Ministry of Health to assist us with more access to health care practitioners for our rape and abuse victims.

What was your inspiration to empower young girls?

I was born in a country where a girl child is not regarded useful or important. Therefore, I felt the need to change that mentality and educate a girl child; to show her that through education she can be anything and everything  she wants to be.We have the power to work hard and prepare for a better future. The girl child needs to know that they can be better, without relying on a man for their needs and a better  future.

What are your current career goals?

I want to be one of the best authors and  to change lives with my book. In addition to that I want to own a fragrance line. By God’s grace it will be out before end of the year.

​     ​Those who live passionately teach us how to love.Those who love passionately teach us how to live Click To Tweet


What’s the creative process like for you? Where do you go, and what do you

Inspiration comes easy for me. My room is mostly the best place for me to go if I want to be in a creative space. My kids are also my inspiration.

In one sentence, how would you like to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as the person who helped others restore their faith in the Lord and  themselves.


Want to learn more about Carol Motolo’s journey?

Buy Carol’s book here: http://www.carolnatashamotolo.com/

The book is also available for purchase on Amazon

Facebook: Tasha Motolo

Instagram: @Sj_motolo 

Webinar with Jacqueline Nassimbwa: Becoming a leader in the health sector (May 25)

Jacqueline Nassimbwa is a public health specialist and project manager who is extremely passionate about advancing sexual and reproductive health rights in Uganda. Join us for a webinar with her on May 25th as she shares with us how she’s moved up the ladder to a leadership position in the health sector.

When you think of a career in health, what comes to mind? If it’s an image of doctors, nurses, or community health workers, you’re not alone!

But it turns out we need more than medical professionals to improve and save lives. There is a need for finance experts, design gurus, communications bosses, IT whizzes, and more.

Join this webinar with @ghcorps alumni on Thur. May 25 and learn to become a leader Click To Tweet

Before you count yourself out of the running for a job in the health sector, join us for a webinar on Thursday May 25th with Jacqueline Nassimbwa. She is an alumni of Global Health Corps and is #SLAYing without white coats or stethoscopes. Learn how Jacqueline built her career around her passion and get inspiration and advice for your own journey!

Register below to get the exclusive link to the webinar.

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • Building a career in the health sector
  • Developing your unique leadership style
  • Integrating leadership with professional development

 Webinar Details:

  • Date: Thursday May 25th 2017
  • Time: 8am NYC // 1pm Lagos // 3pm Kampala

Watch here:

About Jacqueline

Jacqueline Nassimbwa  is skilled in scientific writing, research, project management, and quality improvement. She currently leads research efforts for advocacy teams focused on sexual and reproductive health issues at the Center for Health, Human Rights, and Development in Kampala.

As a 2011-2012, Global Health Corps fellow at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, she assessed government structures in the delivery of maternal and child health (MCH) services and designed interventions to integrate HIV and MCH services.

Combining her expertise in technology with her passion for improving maternal and child health (MCH), Jacqueline designed a cloud system to improve data quality and service delivery in clinics.

Jacqueline holds an BSc in Food Science and Technology from Makerere University, and an MSc in International Health from Charite Institute of Tropical Medicine, Berlin; University College, London; and Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

Webinar with April Laugh: Earning profit in the fitness industry (Apr 26)

Lola Komolafe, founder of April Laugh  is a fitness enthusiast, a meal plan genius, and a healthy foodie. Join us for a webinar with her on Apr. 26th, as she shares with us how she progressed from passion to profit.

Are you passion driven, or profit driven? Wait a minute! Who says it isn’t possible to pursue both? For many people, working is about much more than simply paying the bills. It’s about having a full life, using talents and making a difference.

Understand that knowing your passion is a lot more easier than learning how to make money from it full time. Whatever it is you love to do, there are an incredible amount of ways to monetize your passion.

Lola Komolafe discovered her passion for fitness and a healthy living and started organizing fitness challenges online, before long she got positive testimonies from friends she’d helped and decided to do what she loved full time, thereby giving birth to April Laugh.

Join us for a 45-minute webinar with Lola Komolafe on Wednesday April 26th, 2017. We’ll be discussing how to discover your true passion and make money from what you enjoy doing. Register below to get the exclusive link to the webinar.

Learn how to turn your hobby into money. Join @fitmrsfats for a webinar on Wed Apr. 26th Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Starting out in a non-traditional industry
  • Turning a hobby into money
  • Stages and steps to a healthy living
  • Juggling work, life and your finances while working from home.

Webinar Details:

  • Date: Wednesday April 26th
  • Time: 2pm UK // 2pm Lagos // 3pm Johannesburg

Watch here:

 About Lola Komolafe

Lola Komolafe aka April Laugh is a Fitness Entrepreneur, Certified Nutritionist, Meal Plan Genius and a Fitness Enthusiast who takes conscious efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. She helped her husband to lose over 40kg and has been inspiring people to adopt lifestyle changes with the #LifestyleChangeWithApril 12 Weeks Challenge.

She’s also a God-fearing wife and mom to Bryan and lives in England. You can read more about her on here and find her on Instagram: @fitmrsfats


Rebecca Rwakabukoza: Stay humble, Stay hungry!

It actually gives hope to have media see women as more than the boxes they have ticked us on Click To Tweet

Rebecca Rwakabukoza is a Ugandan feminist blogger and freelance journalist who writes at the intersection of gender, feminism, health, and social justice. She is currently co-organising dialogue initiatives to improve gender equity in the Ugandan media sphere. As a 2014-2015 Global Health Corps fellow at ACODEV in Uganda, she led efforts to improve knowledge management and communications for the organization.

Rebecca completed her undergraduate studies at Amherst College where she was a United States Student Achiever’s Program Scholar and Koenig Scholar. She spent her summers during college with the Uganda Village Project in Iganga, Uganda Rural Fund in Masaka, and interning at the national daily newspaper, Daily Monitor.

As someone who majored English in college, are you surprised to find yourself working in the global health space? What drew you to the field?

I was lucky that I studied in a liberal arts curriculum so while I majored in English, I took classes across several fields. I was not surprised to find myself in the global health space because while public health was not offered as a major at Amherst College, I was able to take plenty of classes in the field, both at Amherst and at the other colleges in the 5-college area. Also, I interned in the field.

Global health was one of the fields that I knew I would always end up in because it just felt natural. My mother is a nurse, and I grew up knowing that conversations about health were especially important outside the doctor’s room.

You’ve spoken widely on global health and social justice, including at TEDx Live in Kampala. For so many of us, public speaking can be overwhelming.

Why is it important that we raise our voices for what we believe in? Any advice on how to stay calm on stage?

For me too! It was very scary to stand on the stage. I had practiced several times with friends, and the TEDx organizers in Kampala. Some friends in GHC had also filmed me while I practiced and I got to watch myself before. I went over my script several times and was afraid it would sound practiced, so definitely getting to watch myself before braving the stage was good.

This might sound cliche but I think ultimately what helped was choosing a topic I was most passionate about. Speaking from the heart should be scary, but it does have a way of calming you when on a stage. Because you know, if anything, at least I was true to myself.

Rebecca Rwakabukoza 1

What is your major source of inspiration in the face of challenges and obstacles?

I draw inspiration from so many places, depending on the gravity of the challenge. If it feels like Rwenzori Mountain level stuff, then I have to call in the big guns: my mother and grans. They field many calls and sometimes we don’t even talk about what the issue is, but just speaking to them about something random helps.

I am really big on history so I suspect some of my attachment to them is the stories they tell. Plus they are pretty incredible women. I also get a lot of inspiration from archives so I listen to a lot of history podcasts and visit the Uganda Society library to read old books. Digging through history is my happy place. But also, food. I am a stress eater.

Can you tell us about a mentor or advisor who really made a positive impact on your life?

There are so many! There has always been someone holding my hand through life, from primary school to now, seeing a better, more hardworking, more focused, smarter, more empowered version of me and helping me work towards her.

If I had to pick just one, I would say my college advisor, Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander. I don’t know how she believed in me or why, but she did and it made all the difference.

Rebecca Rwakabukoza says better media coverage is good for women’s health Click To Tweet

You’re currently working on improving gender equity and representation of women in the media in Uganda -so cool! What’s the tie in with health?

Health ties into everything. Some of the biggest issues women face right now are health-related: access to family planning, gender-based violence, maternal health. The most direct answer, therefore, is better coverage is good for women’s health. But the project I am co-organising however, is more than health and the specific women-related issues. It actually gives hope to have media see women as more than the boxes they have ticked us on -boxes that either have to do with our reproductive health or that see us as caregivers in society.

Media that allows for the presence, and wisdom, of women in their coverage and sourcing is good media. It is what media should be period. Anything else is a disservice to the community.

Rebecca Rwakabukoza 3

And you recently became a mother -congrats! As a woman who is identified as a feminist, what are your hopes and dreams for your daughter’s future?

Thank you! My wish for her is that she gets to choose. To choose how she wants to live her life, to choose who she would like to be, and how she would like to contribute to the universe. And if she doesn’t want to contribute, that’s fine too.

Now, the hardest part I suspect is going to be my role in this. I hope I am able to teach her enough and may she -goddesses willing- be an even better, stronger, more badass feminist than I will ever be.

Which accomplishment -personal or professional- are you most proud of?

I am yet to do something and look at it and think of it as my biggest, or best, achievement. I am still working on things and it all only goes higher. My next one is my biggest.

What is one leadership mantra that you live by?

“Stay humble. Stay hungry.”

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Mbali Peaceful Kgomo: Never a victim always a fighter

Mbali Peaceful Kgomo
For Mbali Peaceful Kgomo, being HIV positive won't stop her from succeeding Click To Tweet

It can be said that HIV is highly stigmatised in black communities in South Africa. People living with the virus choose not to disclose their status to others because of the prejudices they know they will have to face. However, this does not apply to 21-year-old Mbali Peaceful Kgomo who lives by the slogan, “Never a victim always a fighter“.

A blogger, journalist, youth ambassador and the founder of WADA16 Campaign (World Aids day awareness), Mbali was born and bred in the roads of Ekangala. She says being HIV positive will not stop her from succeeding.

Tell us about WADA16

When I found out about my status, I was miserable. I had so many questions to a point where I even questioned the point of living. I wished I could give God a call and give Him a piece of my mind, I didn’t understand and kept asking myself, “why me?”. Back then, I thought I had lost value and was nothing but useless.

WADA brings awareness to our communities because as people we are ignorant about the virus and we’re often stigmatized. WADA is trying to bring positive change about what people think and how they look at those people who are infected with the HIV virus.

You are currently involved in the second coming of Uthingo Mail, which means you will be playing a huge role in what media and information are shared with the young people of Siyabuswa. How do you plan to use this platform?

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Firstly, I need to find people who are willing to be part of my team and who won’t give up along the way, people who are not lazy and who are willing to learn.

I want to give young people the platform to experience new things and to recognise what they really want to do; I’m actually targeting high school learners. Before we can even go to print I’ll post their stories on our Facebook page first until I’m satisfied with their writing. I also need to find sponsors for the newspaper there’s actually a lot that needs to be done.

You’ve been characterized as brave. Tell us how difficult it was for you to finally open up?

Well at first it was really difficult to share my story until I had a mini argument with my cousin. She said to me, “You’re too young to be HIV positive, you should go fetch your pills.” This really hurt me so bad I felt useless at that moment and my reply to her was, “At least I know my status what about you (uhambe uyotesta) go test.” If I can recall then I decided to cut ties with her.

I figured that I need to tell people about this, they need to be taught about HIV/AIDS because most people think when you’re positive you’re automatically on treatment and it’s not like that. There’s a certain stage you have to reach before taking medication and I must say I’m healthy and my CD4 count is above 500 so I’m not on treatment yet.

People need to be taught about HIV/AIDS - Mbali Peaceful Kgomo Click To Tweet

I found out about my status on May 25, 2015, I was very angry, confused, disappointed and I felt so dirty at that moment. I couldn’t believe it was really me, I sat there and cried but then I had to pull myself together. When I went out that room, I felt so horrible deep inside. I even thought it was the end of my life but then it was only the beginning of great things. After finding out about my status I decided to get a tattoo on my back that’s written, “Never a victim always a fighter”.

Mbali Kgomo 1

How has your life changed since you found out about your status?

In the last two years, my life has changed dramatically. I was really an outgoing person and there were so many people in my life which I called “friends” who were really not true friends. I was a lost soul until I decide to cut them out of my life and associate myself with positive minded people.

Look at me today, I’m a person I never thought I would be. Some people even look up to me, I’m just glad that I’m a different person than I was before.

It is difficult to breathe in a black society when you are HIV, how do you overcome all the negativity?

I will maintain the positive attitude I have always had and I won’t let anything stop me from doing what I do best. I will walk tall like nothing is happening even though there will be people who will look at me differently and talk bad about me.

Mbali Peaceful Kgomo: I won’t let anything stop me from doing what I do best Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, I’m planning to change that as I will be spreading factual information about HIV. People need to understand that just because you’re positive it doesn’t mean you are sick, it’s just a virus living inside your blood.

What was required to finally say, “Yes I am HIV and I am not ashamed”?

It was three things, bravery, strength, and courage.

You once said, “Tattoos are my medicine”, how so?

Lol! I’ve got eight tattoos in total and they all have different meanings. The tattoo on my wrist is in memory of my late mother. When I got it, I was still grieving and it was so hard for me to accept her passing. But after getting the tattoo the pain I was feeling inside slowly faded away.

I have another tattoo on the right side of my wrist, I got that one after being betrayed. It was actually a way of me forgiving that person but not forgetting what happened. I was able to move on after a few months and to be my old self again, so I decided that we should give it another try.

Some people don’t understand why I get inked but getting a tattoo is an escape from the pain that I face in life. They help me deal with all the painful things that are happening in my life.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

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!

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Webinar with Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola: Building a business in health & wellness (Dec. 6)

health business

Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola, founder of Radiant Health Magazine, is a staunch advocate for living a healthy lifestyle and has been involved in public health for most of her adult life. Join us for a webinar with her on Dec. 6th, as she shares her health and entrepreneurship.  

Health and wellness is an important part of any Motherland Mogul’s lifestyle. You can’t expect to run your empire while running yourself into the ground. Exercise and eating well aren’t always emphasized in African communities, particularly exercise for African women. So where do you turn to for information on living a healthy life?

How about those that love health and wellness and want to create a business focused around that industry? How do you make sure there is a market for what you are selling or providing?

Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola has thought about all these problems and more and, she is ready to share her knowledge with us.  From pharmaceuticals to the World Health Organization and now to being the founder and editor-in-chief of Africa’s #1 Health Magazine, Radiant Health Mag,  Nnenna is passionate about helping Africans and others live their healthiest lives.

Join us for a 30-minute webinar with Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola on December 6th, 2016. We’ll be discussing what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle as an entrepreneur and tips for starting a business in the health and wellness industry. Register below to get the exclusive link to the webinar.

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • How to make time for your health
  • What it means to eat healthy
  • How to start a business in the health industry
  • How Radiant Health Mag became the #1 Health Magazine in Africa & the diaspora

Webinar Details:

  • Date: Tuesday December 6, 2016
  • Time: 7:00am NYC // 1:00pm Lagos // 3:00pm Nairobi

Watch this webinar:

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About Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola

Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Radiant Health Magazine, Africa’s leading health magazine. Radiant Health began as Nigeria’s first women’s magazine and has grown globally to reach African women on the continent and throughout the Diaspora.

Nnenna’s lifelong commitment to improving health outcomes for Africans began with her work as a pharmacist. Wanting to make a larger impact, she transitioned to the public health sector starting as an intern at the World Health Organization (WHO) Geneva where she helped to develop data for the WHO Global Infobase, a country-level database of non-communicable disease risk factors. Nnenna served as a Global Health Fellow at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she spent a year in Tanzania working to strengthen the laboratory system for HIV/AIDS diagnosis and treatment monitoring. She continued her public health work at CDC Atlanta and later as a consultant for the D.C. based Advocates for Youth before going on to launch Radiant Health Magazine.

Nnenna completed one year of study in Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, prior to moving to the U.S. She earned her Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from Texas Tech University and her Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University.

Nnenna has been featured in How We Made It in Africa, Voices of America,  YNaija’s Leading Ladies Africa, She Leads Africa and was recently named one of 41 Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs Putting the Country on the Global Business Map by Lionesses of Africa.

4 wellness tips for ladies with baby (or not-so-baby) businesses

I know you are strong and independent and all that but babe, you aren’t 007 Click To Tweet

Congratulations on starting your business, feels like a new baby, right? It’s really amazing to finally have the time and resources to start living your dream but with it comes the added stress of taking care of this new baby (assuming that’s the only baby you have. If not, double congrats to you!).

In addition, there’s all the other roles you perform in everyday life as a woman, daughter, sister, friend, wife, mom

Here are 4 wellness tips that can make running a baby business (or any business at all) less stressful on you.

1. Get help

At the start of your entrepreneurial journey, you might be tempted to do it all (like I was). You will most likely be the CEO, the liaison officer, the content manager, the cleaner (yes, cleaner if you run a shop alone), the accountant and so many other things.

I know you are strong and independent and all that but babe, you aren’t 007 (even he has help from the HQ when needed). Please approach friends and family to help with some tasks you are not so good at so you can concentrate on what you know best.ill-be-here-sipping-my-tea-until-you-ask-for-help

You can also try a service swap. If you are a budding fashion stylist for instance, helping a celebrity (or popular) friend with styling tips in exchange for a social media mention or dedicated post can help you with PR.

It can also free up some hours you would have used sitting glued to your laptop sweating over online publicity.

2. Don’t forget to eat

Drowning yourself in work all day and forgetting about meals is just, plain evil! As an entrepreneur, you need energy to function and the only (legit) way to get it is through healthy, nutritious food.

Drowning yourself in work all day and forgetting about meals is just, plain evil! Click To Tweet

Pack your meals or have a deal with a food vendor to drop off your meals if you work outside of your home. If you need to set the alarm for meal time, please do.


I tell my coaching clients at My Figure 8 wellness that If you don’t eat properly, or skip meals, there’s a tendency for you to chomp on unhealthy, sugary snacks all day. Then over eat (most times too late into the night), when you finally remember food or worse still, become undernourished.

3. Get moving

You know exercises are good for you but do you exercise? Exercising is not only good for your body (and that’s a story for another day), it’s also good for your heart, emotions and mental health. People who exercise often are said to be generally smarter, and happier than those who don’t.

Remember what Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde? “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t!”

Aunt Vivian - Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Start with simple workouts like a brisk walk or jog, aerobics and strength training, skipping, racing up and down the stairs and intense dancing. Doing this for 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week will work wonders in the strength and energy department.

Don’t forget to warm up before and stretch after your workouts.

4. Chill

It’s okay to take a break, seriously! Take one day off work weekly or every other week. An annual vacation to engage in activities that make you feel relaxed and happy is a good investment in your sanity as an entrepreneur.

Go to the movies, a spa, go bowling or skydiving (my dream vacation activity), whatever catches your fancy.take-a-break-09utnz

Drowning yourself in work, taking care of everything and everyone else but yourself will take its toll. Take it from me, I’ve been there done that.

I was recently so immersed in learning all I could from my opportunity as a Tony Elumelu entrepreneur, running my business, home (I have two children who ask 1 million questions per minute) and working on starting another business, being a leader and all, that I totally forgot I exist and girl, did I pay for it?

I had to stay home for more than a week taking some prescription pain and sleeping meds.