Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How 'Afropreneurs' will shape Africa's future

<a href='http://www.kellogg.ox.ac.uk/idris-ayodeji-bello' target='_blank'>Idris Ayodeji Bello </a>is the co-founder of the Wennovation Hub, a Lagos-based initiative dedicated to helping entrepreneurs develop their ideas. Idris Ayodeji Bello is the co-founder of the Wennovation Hub, a Lagos-based initiative dedicated to helping entrepreneurs develop their ideas.
HIDE CAPTION
'Afropreneur' Idris Ayodeji Bello
'Afropreneur' Idris Ayodeji Bello
'Afropreneur' Idris Ayodeji Bello
'Afropreneur' Idris Ayodeji Bello
'Afropreneur' Idris Ayodeji Bello
'Afropreneur' Idris Ayodeji Bello
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nigerian Idris Ayodeji Bello describes himself as an "Afropreneur"
  • He says Afro-centric entrepreneurs will bring change to the continent
  • Bello has created the Wennovation Hub in Nigeria to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas
  • He says his work is about enabling access to health information and education tools

(CNN) -- His full name is Idris Ayodeji Bello, but you might just call him "Afropreneur."

That's the buzzword adopted by the young Nigerian to describe the bright, independent and tech savvy entrepreneurs using creative thinking and the power of innovation to take over Africa's economic destiny.

"Over time Africa has relied on government and big multinationals for solutions -- but they're not coming," explains Bello.

"But of recent you're seeing a new wave of young men and women who have access to all the global networks, who've studied either within the continent or outside and have this passion for change -- these are the people Africa's change is going to come from, these are the people I call 'Afropreneurs.'"

And Bello is certainly leading by example.

At just 33 years old, he has already been involved in several tech initiatives aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship and empowering communities across Africa.

Connecting solutions to problems

Africa's tech innovation

Early last year, Bello co-founded the Wennovation Hub in Nigeria, a technology space enabling ambitious entrepreneurs to come together and develop their trailblazing ideas into successful businesses.

The Lagos-based hub, one of the many innovation centers that have recently mushroomed across Africa, has so far incubated the efforts of more than 100 entrepreneurs, providing them with space, support and consulting.

Breaking down the tech barrier in Africa

"Part of our own responsibility is to connect the talent to the opportunity," says Bello. "We took the "i" out of innovation and replaced it with the "we" and came up with the Wennovation Hub -- the problems of Africa are huge, they cannot be solved by one person alone, so it requires people coming together."

Access is key

Born in Nigeria to a family of academics, Bello says he learned from an early age the importance of access to information.

Growing up, he says, he was surrounded by books. "We had a mantra in our house," remembers Bello. "My dad would always say 'never get caught without a book,' so whether you had lunch or you were sleeping, you always had to have your book."

Read related: Africa's 'father of technology'

Bello went on to study computer science in Nigeria before moving to the United States and the UK to further his academic knowledge in entrepreneurship and global health. Along the way, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in -- he worked for multinationals such as Procter & Gamble and Chevron and also got involved in a number of startups.

When you give entrepreneurs access to mentors, access to finance, access to knowledge they need, they will create the solution.
Idris Ayodeji Bello

But Africa was always bound to be central to Bello's work. Passionate about his continent, he quickly ventured into what he describes as "the business of technology in health and education."

Kenya's internet generation

'An app a day keeps the doctor away'

As a result, Bello co-founded AfyaZima, a health technology and management startup that leverages the rise of mobile phones and other low-cost technologies across Africa to provide access to vital health information.

Kenya's internet generation

The startup won the 2012 Dell Technology Award -- in collaboration with the Oxford Engineering World Health Group -- for Blood Pressure MCuff, a low-cost device that enables blood pressure monitoring and data transmission via mobile phones. The technology hence acts as a communication channel for doctors to remotely send treatment recommendations to their patients.

The concept is this: at the moment you put mobile phone on everybody's hands, how can it comes to that ... instead of people going to the hospital, the hospital comes to you,"Bello says. "Growing up, they used to tell us an apple a day keeps the doctor away, now it's more like an app a day keeps the doctor away."

AfyaZima, which comes from a Swahili word for complete health, is also working to create a cloud-based service that will receive the mobile phone data and store them in an electronic health record.

'Bringing online education to an offline world'

But perhaps Bello's most daring project to date is YoKwazi: an ambitious initiative aiming to change Africa's education landscape by putting learning resources to the hands of students and teachers across the continent.

It's about bringing online education to an offline world.
Idris Ayodeji Bello

Bello explains that due to broadband constraints many young Africans are losing out in the major shift toward open education in parts of the developed world, where massive open online courses are offered for free.

"That's where I step in," he says. "I come from the developing world but I have had access to this good education and so my goal is to bridge that gap -- to knock down that barrier of broadband."

Read also: Web savvy Africans fuel growth in online shopping

Still at testing stage, YoKwazi aims to deploy OTGPlaya, an offline wireless cloud device, in key community areas to house and host online educational tools. The device, which was incubated at the Wennovation Hub, will do a one-time download, store the content and make it available for people nearby to access it through their wi-fi enabled devices.

"It's about bringing online education to an offline world," says Bello.

Legacy of 'Afropreneurs'

Multifarious and passionate, Bello says his mission as an "Afropreneur" is to enable access to information so that people can tap into their own creativity to solve their problems without having to rely on government.

"A lot of times we're focused too much on trying to solve people's problems. But people are the ones who best know their own problems but often can lack the tools they need," he says.

"When you give people access to health education, they will take better care of their health; when you give people access to education, you will see people even do greater things," adds Bello. "We enable people to access -- when they know, they will solve their problems. That my proposition."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Through a variety of exhibitions including one signed off by the artist himself, Nigeria is presenting J.D. Okhai Ojeikere to the world one last time.
September 8, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
Neurosurgeon Kachinga Sichizya talks about caring for newborns and mothers from underprivileged backgrounds.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astake may be the father of a musical genre: Ethio-jazz. But when he talks about the art form, he tends to focus on its scientific merits.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
U.S. response to Ebola is key for setting global example, writes global health advocate Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
One of the most debilitating medical conditions in sub-Saharan Africa isn't fatal. In fact, it's easily curable.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 0953 GMT (1753 HKT)
Daniel
Kenyan funny man Daniel "Churchill" Ndambuki chooses five emerging comics from the continent to keep an eye on -- they are going to be big!
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)
African contemporary art is thriving, says author Chibundu Onuzo.
November 3, 2014 -- Updated 1355 GMT (2155 HKT)
Amos Wekesa has seen a lot of changes in his country. Today, the self-made millionaire oversees Great Lakes Safaris, one of the largest tour operators in Uganda.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1010 GMT (1810 HKT)
Photographer Ernest Cole made it his life mission to capture the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
In the largely male-dominated world of the motorsport, South African superbike racer Janine Davies is an anomaly.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
Athi-Patra Ruga,
For anyone that needs convincing that African art is the next big thing, they need look no further than 1:54, the London-based contemporary African art fair.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
A growing list of popular African authors have been steadily picking up steam --and fans -- across the globe over the last several years.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic musical legends from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT