Why Bill Gates believes in Africa
Yesterday, Bill Gates took to his blog to big up Africa. The entrepreneur, philanthropist and all round overachiever used his first blog of the year to explain why he has such faith in the continent. In ‘5 Reasons I’m Optimistic About Africa’, Gates states the following:
Pictures are worth more than words
“Everyday Africa is one of Melinda and my favourite Instagram profiles. It shows what the vast, culturally diverse continent of Africa is like beyond the lazy stereotypes. I’m not much of a photographer myself, but I’m a big admirer of people who can make one image tell a compelling story. These images, most of which are posted by African photographers, do so in beautiful, creative, and sometimes funny ways. “Everyday” and “normal” are usually something we associate with “boring.” Not here! Please see for yourself.”
Virus-resistant cassavas will improve lives
“In the developed world, most people eat the root vegetable cassava only in tapioca pudding or bubble tea. But in Africa, it’s the primary staple for half a billion people and the continent’s most popular crop. That’s why I’m super excited that scientists are using the most advanced hybridization techniques for the benefit of cassava farmers and those who depend on the crop. With the support of UK Department for International Development and our foundation, scientists are making great progress developing hybrids that are resistant to the major virus that cuts down on cassava yields (cassava mosaic virus). At the same time, these scientists are breeding strains that have more nutrients than the strains under cultivation today.”
Grandmas are reducing maternal and child deaths
“You know the old saying “success has many fathers?” It turns out success has many grandmothers as well, especially when it comes to reducing maternal and child deaths. Across many different African cultures, grandmothers are powerful authority figures when it comes to a wide variety of health, pregnancy, and child-rearing issues. As a result, NGOs are now enlisting grandmothers as key agents of change for women and girls, especially in rural areas where there are not nearly enough midwives and other health professionals. Grandmothers are helping to guide pregnant women to health facilities and educating them about proper prenatal care. They’re helping to change attitudes about female genital mutilation (FGM). They’re helping to increase newborn vaccination rates. They’re helping women space their pregnancies for health and safety. As Dr. Bouna Sall related to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, ‘Everyone obeys the grandmothers. Through them we can change many things.’”
Solar power is brightening lives
“In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of people in rural areas live in the dark, without access to the electrical grid. But new technologies are changing that picture much more quickly than even we optimists expected. Small entrepreneurs, backed by the U.S. government and private companies, are selling affordable solar kits that help rural families leapfrog their way to clean, reliable energy. These solar kits are lighting homes for the first time, allowing children to continue learning after dark. They are powering mobile phones and radios, connecting households to the wider world. They are allowing small businesses to operate longer, producing more family income. They also improve health, because they’re much safer than kerosene and other traditional fuels.”
Creativity is as strong, if not stronger, than ever
“When I was in South Africa last year for the International AIDS Conference, I caught a fascinating TV show one night. The show is called “Rhythm City”, and it’s the most popular soap opera in South Africa. The show, which has characters speaking in the four main languages of South Africa (Xhosa, Zulu, English, and Afrikaans), revolves around people trying to break into the music industry. Some of the storylines are a bit out there (it is a soap opera, after all), but when you see the show it really brings home how far South Africa has come since the end of apartheid. You take a step into the lives of everyday South Africans who are dealing with the relationship and business issues you’d see anywhere in the world. As the continent continues to develop and thrive, I predict we’ll see many other shows like this in other countries."
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.