By Ajong Mbapndah L
From Whispa Health Limited in Nigeria comes the mobile app Whispa that provides people with nonjudgmental access to sexual and reproductive health information, products and services.
“In Nigeria, one out of every 5 women has given birth by age 18 and the use of contraceptives remains very low. There were 3.4 million unintended pregnancies and 2.7 million abortions in 2019. Furthermore, although Nigeria has one of the highest rates of new HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, rates of HIV testing remain low and many people living with HIV are unaware of their status, our goal is to change the status quo,” says CEO Morenike Fajemisin
What is the Whispa Health mobile app and how was the idea conceived?
WHISPA is a mobile application that allows everyone (especially young people) to conveniently access Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) education, information, products and services. Our users can have private (even anonymous) chats with a WHISPA doctor, book appointments for contraceptives, cervical cancer screening or laboratory tests. They can also privately purchase sexual health products like HIV test kits, condoms and we discreetly deliver to their homes/offices.
The idea was conceived by our CEO, Morenike Fajemisin, as a result of her personal and professional experiences with the challenges young people face when trying to access sexual and reproductive healthcare.
May we know how many users that you currently have and the feedback you have received from the public about the app?
We have over 16,000 users
Talking of sexual and reproductive health, what is the situation like in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, one out of every 5 women has given birth by age 18 and the use of contraceptives remains very low. There were 3.4 million unintended pregnancies and 2.7 million abortions in 2019. Furthermore, although Nigeria has one of the highest rates of new HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, rates of HIV testing remain low and many people living with HIV are unaware of their status.
These problems are brought about and worsened by our society’s cultural and religious biases and the lack of shame-free and confidential access to quality sexual and reproductive health information, products and services for young people (especially those who are unmarried. Our goal is to change this status quo.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered in the course of trying to grow the App and your company?
We encountered some typical challenges that start-ups face, like raising our initial capital to build our product, hiring good hands and finding a team that was willing to buy into our vision at such an early stage.
As we began to grow, we needed to manage our funding properly in order to give us ample runway until more funding was secured and we are proud of everyone that has started this journey with us.
Your company Whispa Health Limited was recently selected amongst the recipients of the inaugural $2 million JUA Fund, how was this news received?
Our team was excited and ecstatic and some of them were also on the private zoom call to receive the news along with WHISPA’s founders. We wanted them to hear from Adam Molai and the judges and to appreciate the validation of the work we have all put in.
How did you find the application process and what are some the things you learned in the process?
We found JUA’s process to be unique and efficient. They were very detailed and thorough and also able to understand that some businesses like ours are just starting while some have many years under their belt.
The best part though was the Olympics. Each day was focused and detailed. As much as we were the one’s competing, we also learnt a lot from the judges.
What impact do you see support from the JUA Fund having on your vision and operations?
The JUA Fund is critical to our growth plan and achieving our target of 200,000+ downloads in 12 months. We also expect it to help us with recruitment and retention of key personnel that are needed as we grow and scale our innovation.
Any plans or thoughts about eventually expanding the Whispa Health Mobile App to other parts of Africa?
Certainly. Our vision is to become the number 1 solution provider for Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare in Africa because African countries have similar challenges when it comes to accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare. Therefore, we see Nigeria as our launchpad for WHISPA with goals to expand to neighboring Ghana and then all over Africa.
Based on the experiences you have acquired, what words of advice do you for other aspiring young entrepreneurs out there?
Find a business you have passion for, think of an innovative way to carry it out, then make a plan to do It. Depending on your background and available financial support, it is not going to be easy, but if you want it hard enough, stay on course and do not give up.