During an internship with the UK’s Department for International Development in Northeast Nigeria in 2003, Temie Giwa-Tubosun, who has been named the winner of the 2020 Global Citizen Prize for Business Leader, had a life-changing experience.
She and her team had come across a young pregnant woman in a village in Kano who had been in labor from bridge birth complications for several days — she was bleeding heavily and members of the community were just waiting for her to die. A simple caesarean section and blood transfusion would have solved the problem, but the young woman and her family couldn’t afford any medical care.
This experience inspired Giwa-Tubosun to learn about health systems in developing countries and ultimately launch LifeBank, a digital medical distribution company that has facilitated the delivery of essential medical products like blood, oxygen, plasma, and vaccines to hospitals in Nigeria since 2016.
“Because there was already a huge gap, we were able to grow quickly in our first year. It was like we were solving a problem people didn’t even know they had,” she said in 2017. “I started LifeBank because I wanted a world where women no longer died from preventable causes like postpartum hemorrhage.”
The Global Citizen Prize for Business Leader honors an individual in the business community who has combined business goals with positive human impact.
Celebrated for her work as a health advocate in addressing blood shortages in Nigeria, as well as her innovative use of technology, Giwa-Tubosun is also recognized for LifeBank’s COVID-19 response — including launching testing centers, and free delivery of medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients in isolation centers.
.@KatieCouric sat down with our 2020 Global Citizen Prize for Business Leader award winner @temite to chat about how her organization @lifebankcares helps deliver quality health care across Nigeria and Kenya. Take a look 👇 pic.twitter.com/vCUdv2v86b— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) December 20, 2020
Speaking to journalist and TV presenter Katie Couric during the 2020 Global Citizen Prize special, Giwa-Tubosun said: “I have great, big, giant audacious dreams for LifeBank. The problem we are solving is not only a Nigerian problem or an African problem, it's a problem that exists in developing countries — countries that have not figured out their infrastructure.
“For me the work is to build a scalable, fast-growing business that can expand to all these locations around the globe where these problems still exist, saving lives and saving lives at scale,” she continued. “That is the dream and we are willing to do the work to get there.”
Blood shortages in Nigeria contribute to the deaths of 152,000 anemic children and 37,000 pregnant women each year, and are responsible for innumerable complications for women immediately after childbirth.
Nigeria also has the highest rate of maternal mortality in Africa (and second in the world after India) and there are many problems plaguing its health systems ranging from poor infrastructure to a shortage of doctors.
Giwa-Tubosun and her team at LifeBank are working to solve a lot of these problems and, so far, the company has transported over 25,000 medical products, served more than 600 hospitals, and saved at least 10,000 lives, according to its website.
LifeBank also launched AirBank, a platform to order and deliver emergency oxygen cylinders across Nigeria, in 2018. The company then went on to launch a digital blood and oxygen bank in Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria, in July 2020.
Born in Ila Orangun, Osun State, in 1985, Giwa-Tubosun is a graduate of Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, with degrees in political science and international health systems management.
Though she is not a formally trained technologist or medical practitioner, Giwa-Tubosun (who is also a proud mum and wife) has been able to excel in both areas. Apart from the LifeBank app, Giwa-Tubosun and her organization have used blockchain technology to create SmartBag, which registers and protects information about blood supply, reducing risks of infections.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, the company launched QuipbyLifeBank, a national register to trace functioning medical equipment, including ventilators, respirators, and ICU beds, across Nigerian hospitals. It has been able to identify more than 700 pieces of medical equipment in Nigeria (as of April), expanded the database to include Kenya, and has plans to include Ethiopia and Ghana.
In June 2020, when she was named a Cartier Women’s Initiative Laureate for Sub-Saharan Africa, she said: “A woman who carries a baby, who gives birth to a baby, should get to watch that baby grow up. It’s our responsibility to ensure that maternal death during childbirth becomes something of history. This is what I was meant to do with my life. I feel a sense of calling while solving this problem.”
In April 2020, LifeBank launched two free drive-through mobile testing centers in Lagos and Oyo with the support of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), and partnered with the Oyo state government and investment group Dan Holdings to provide free delivery of medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients in two isolation centers.
For her work, Giwa-Tubosun has been awarded the Solve Initiative Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Tech Entrepreneur Award from the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), the Africa Netpreneur Award, and the Jack Ma African Business Award.
When asked by Couric what winning the 2020 Global Citizen Prize for Business Leader means to her, Giwa-Tubosun said: “This prize validates the impact we’ve had on human life across Nigeria and Kenya.
“It’s an honor to our riders who are out there delivering these critical resources; it's an honor to our tech team who are constantly building critical technology that powers what we do,” she continued. “I happen to be the one that’s receiving the prize as the leader of the business, but it’s a prize for all of us at LifeBank.”
You can watch Global Citizen Prize — and hear more from Giwa-Tubosun, alongside all the other 2020 Global Citizen Prize winners — wherever you are in the world, and can find full global listings here, including how to tune in to digital livestreams. In West Africa, the show will be on Trace Naija from 9 p.m. WAT on Dec. 21.
Join Global Citizen in December 2020 to celebrate the leaders among us who have stepped up against a backdrop of unprecedented global challenges to take action for the world we want — a world that is fair, just, and equal.
The broadcast and digitally streamed award ceremony will also feature inspirational stories of human strength and unforgettable performances that will bring together artists, activists, and global leaders to remind each of us that, together, we will come out of this year stronger. Find out more about the Global Citizen Prize and how to watch here.