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African Women in Tech: Lilian Makoi

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Lilian Makoi, Founder, Jamii – Tanzania

Lilian is a Tanzanian Fintech entrepreneur who is the Founder of Jamii, a mobile micro-insurance startup that enables access to affordable health insurance for low-income communities.

She has won a number of awards, including being named one of the most innovative women in tech in Africa by the World Economic Forum in 2016. Here she shares her journey into entrepreneurship and her experience with raising funding as a female founder.

Excerpts below are from her interview with Eunice Baguma Ball, author of the book, Founding Women which highlights the amazing African women in tech.

“It’s been so exciting to see the impact that technology can make and I am now very passionate about using technology to solve problems for low- income communities.”

What was your journey into entrepreneurship like and what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Growing up I always knew I wanted to be successful. From a young age, I had big ambitions and my father instilled in me the self-belief that I could achieve them. Throughout school, he encouraged me and pushed me to do and be more. He used to tell me that if I worked hard, I would one day be like Condoleezza Rice, who is an icon I have always admired. That desire to be successful and to make an impact in Africa is probably why I’ve always been entrepreneurial. Back in college, I remember renting out movies to other university students to make some extra pocket money. My father was always supportive and made sure I had everything I needed while I was at University, so I didn’t do it because I needed the money I just genuinely enjoyed running my own business and making my own money Immediately after college, I married my best friend and we had a daughter shortly after. The experiences of struggling to run a household and trying to lose weight after the baby led me to set up two new businesses.The first was a diet food cooking and delivery business and the second, a housekeeping and cleaning service. The diet food business had plenty of customers, but I struggled to manage my accounts and meet the demand. I later decided to close down both businesses and join full-time employment as a business development manager for a vendor company in the telecommunications sector.

Why did you opt to use technology as the way to address the problem you had identified?

My experience working in the telecommunications sector allowed me to see the impact that mobile technology was making, and gave me exposure to the rapidly growing mobile payments space. After realizing that more than 70% of the population in Tanzania were part of the low-income segment who were struggling with health care financing, I spoke to several insurers to try and understand the challenges that were preventing them from addressing this problem, which I saw as a missed opportunity for them. Their response was always the same, “High insurance administration costs.” I unpacked these administration costs to understand what they were exactly and came up with a solution that allowed all the administrative tasks to be carried out via a mobile phone, thus reducing the overall administration costs involved. We were then able to build a mobile platform that made health insurance 100% cashless and paperless, enabling our insurance partner to launch a one-dollar health insurance product which was affordable for low-income families. It’s been so exciting to see the impact that technology can make and I am now very passionate about using technology to solve problems for low-income communities. applauds Lillian Makoi for being one of the amazing African women in tech.

#FoundingWomen shares the inspiring entrepreneurship stories of 20 African women in tech and how they deal with the challenges that can often come with navigating the male-dominated world of technology. Filled with practical advice as well as words of encouragement, this book speaks to anyone who has a dream but fears the odds might be stacked up too high against them.

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