LifeBank is a medical logistics company operating in Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Through a tech-based platform and a cross-subsidization model, it has helped save 20,000 people since 2016, the majority of whom were from low-income communities.
To start, could you briefly introduce yourselves?
Temie: My name is Temie Giwa-Tubosun. I founded LifeBank to save women from bleeding to death during childbirth.
Ayomide: I am Ayomide Otegbayo, Director of Communications at LifeBank.
What is the issue LifeBank addresses?
Temie: I founded LifeBank in 2016 to support mothers suffering from Postpartum Haemorrhage. This is a condition where women just continue to bleed after childbirth. In Nigeria, it is the leading cause of maternal mortality. There is a shortage of donor blood, and poor infrastructure makes it hard to deliver it on time without breaking the cold chain. Also, doctors often do not know which blood banks have the required blood group in stock. LifeBank wants to save these women. We believe that no one should lose her life to bring new life to the world.
So, what does LifeBank do?
Ayomide: We save lives by delivering medical supplies like blood, medicines, vaccines and oxygen across Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia. While we started with a focus on swift delivery of blood to reduce maternal mortality caused by Postpartum Haemorrhage, we have evolved into a medical logistics company more broadly.
How does your business model include low-income communities?
Temie: Many of the hospitals we serve cater to patients from low-income communities. We use a cross-subsidisation model to charge them prices they can afford. In addition, we have set up the Blood and Oxygen Access Trust (BOAT) to finance medical supplies for poor people.
Ayomide: We also create economic opportunities. For instance, we employ people from local communities as blood riders, who transport blood where it is needed.
What is the special value LifeBank creates for patients?
Temie: We ensure the availability, affordability, and accessibility of critical medical supplies. To do so, we use data analytics, agile logistics, and the cross-subsidisation model I mentioned earlier. In case of emergencies, we are available 24/7. If you call us at 2:00 am, we will do whatever it takes to get the supply to wherever you need it.
How do you use data to achieve this goal?
Temie: Our data science platform forecasts demand at the hospitals we serve and records supply at blood banks. Matching supply and demand ensures that the hospitals never run out of blood, medicines or oxygen. At the same time, blood banks no longer need to discard blood that gets too old for transfusion just because doctors are unable to locate it. Also, we use Google Maps to calculate and monitor routes for delivery. This ensures an uninterrupted cold chain and last-mile delivery in less than 45 minutes.
Ayomide: We have also developed SmartBag, a blockchain-based product tracking blood transfusions from vein to vein. It enables hospitals to check the safety record of transfusions. In addition, we have developed an app to simplify blood donations. We are still facing a shortage of supply, so it is important to motivate more donors.
How many people do you reach?
Temie: We serve over 1,000 hospitals in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. Since I founded LifeBank, we have delivered over 45,400 units of critical supplies and helped save over 20,000 patients. About three quarters of these people were from low-income communities. In Nigeria and Kenya, we have also established a network of 100 blood banks and recruited about 7,400 blood donors. We have been growing every year since 2016.
Ayomide: We also create jobs. In Nigeria alone, we employ over 100 people in the office and along the logistics chains.
What makes your business model financially viable?
Temie: We serve a large market. Nigeria has about 36 oxygen plants, for example, but we still face a shortage of supply. It’s the same in other African countries. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.
Ayomide: In terms of pricing, we charge a logistics fee of ten dollars per unit of medical supply. This is an average fee, since we place hospitals on different service plans. Premium customers in wealthy areas cross-subsidise hospitals serving low-income communities. These hospitals receive the same supplies, but with less extra services and at a lower price.
Do you receive any funding or technical support from outside the company?
Temie: Yes! We have received support from reputable institutions like Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Skoll Foundation, and Merck for Mothers.
What are your plans for the next few years?
Temie: We have just launched an oxygen plant in Nasarawa state, Nigeria. This tech-driven, agile plant not only ensures swift supply of oxygen for the 29 million people in the state, but we have also created jobs for local communities. Also, a few months ago, we launched a SmartBank in Kenya. Smart Bank uses blockchain tools to track blood from vein to vein thereby improving safety. This platform forecasts blood demand and matches it with supply.
Ayomide: We want to reach every hospital in Africa to ensure they have everything they need to save lives. We expanded to Kenya last year, and to Ethiopia this year. Over the next few years, we will continue to expand. There are about 200 million people in Africa that we would like to reach.
What do you need to realise these plans?
Ayomide: We need to close infrastructure gaps, find people with the right culture, and acquire more funding. The more financial resources and technical assistance we get, the more hospitals we can reach.
What challenges has LifeBank overcome?
Temie: When we launched, our biggest challenge was that poor people often cannot afford the supplies we provide. We have solved this problem through cross-subsidisation and by setting up the BOAT foundation, which sources donations from companies and individuals. Now that we are at scale, Infrastructure gaps are a challenge, too. This is why we use all kinds of vehicles – boats, trucks, drones, whatever it takes – to deliver our products on time and in good condition.
What inspires you to keep going?
Temie: The desire to save lives. I believe that no one should have to die because they have no access to medical supplies or because they can’t afford them. When there is a hurdle, we have to cross it because so many people need us.
Are there any recommendations you can give to other inclusive business companies?
Temie: Look for neglected problems that can be solved with innovative solutions and remain resilient on the journey.
The Impact Stories are produced by the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN). They are created in close collaboration with the highlighted entrepreneurs and teams. The production of this Impact Story has been led by Susann Tischendorf (concept), Hong Anh Dao (video), Katharina Münster (text and infographics), Christopher Malapitan (illustrations), and Alexandra Harris (editing). The music is royalty free. All photographs are courtesy of LifeBank.