The Nigerian entrepreneur who runs ‘an Amazon for blood’
Temie Giwa-Tubosun had an epiphany 13 years ago when she met an expectant mother who was about to lose her baby. Giwa-Tubosun was working as a 22-year-old intern with a health services organisation in northern Nigeria, doing surveys of rural people seeking care. The family of the mother-to-be thought she would die in a complicated labour because the baby was upside down in a twisted breech position. This wasn’t an unrealistic fear, in a country where one in 22 women perish in pregnancy, during birth, while undergoing abortions, or afterwards.
As it turned out, the woman got surgery and survived. But her baby didn’t, and that death shook Giwa-Tubosun deeply. She didn’t leave her hotel room for four days and barely ate. “I thought it was so unjust that women could die in childbirth,” she recalls. “That got me hooked on maternal healthcare.”
In 2010, Giwa-Tubosun won a fellowship at the WHO in Geneva. She went on to work on various health projects, including in Uganda and in Minnesota in the United States. In 2012, she made the leap and founded an NGO known as the One Percent Project, whose raison d’etre was to educate Nigerians on blood donations and distribute them better throughout the country. This led to the creation four years later of LifeBank, a distribution business that uses data and technology to get urgent blood supplies to hospitals. It serves as a bridge between donors and clinics.
Giwa-Tubosun’s work has earned her praise across the globe including from the World Economic Forum, and she has spoken on influential platforms – such as the TedxEustonSalon – about her vision for tackling blood shortage on the African continent. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said after meeting her in 2016 that “If she actually pulls it off, then she’d show a model that will impact not just Lagos, not just Nigeria, but countries all around the world.” Giwa-Tubosun is pulling it off rather well. Working with over 150 accredited blood banks and 142 employees, LifeBank serves over 600 hospitals across Nigeria and has recently expanded into Kenya, according to Giwa-Tubosun. She says she has distributed enough blood to save more than 100,000 lives.
This social entrepreneurship is all the more significant considering that female executives are few and far between in Nigeria – to which Giwa-Tubosun simply says, “We get to save lives and we get to rescue people.”
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