Temitope Tolani Akintunde is the founder of BizShield Africa App and website. Based in the ancient city of Ibadan and almost 50 years of age, she doesn’t come across as someone to develop an app to combat scammers and verify authentic businesses and vendors on social media sites, but after a personal incidence that hit close to home, that was what she did. A Masters’ degree holder from the University of Ibadan where she majored in Guidance and Counseling, Akintunde has always been an entrepreneur since leaving school. The beautiful and unassuming grandmother is an avid lover of the Internet, social media, technology, an astute businesswoman and a developer. Proving that age is no barrier to doing what you love, she speaks on the factors that led her delving into app development and what she hopes it will do for online entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Tell us about your journey into developing this app, what led to it?
The journey through getting to this phase hasn’t been easy but I am very grateful to God for this milestone. I am very happy that after all the struggles we are in the final phase of giving BizShield Africa to the world. This app was borne out of a lot of factors. BizShield Africa app was named BizShield initially because it was born out of the need to secure businesses on Instagram and prevent them from being deactivated. Personally, I noticed the lack of adequate advert for small businesses online, insecurity of online businesses; accounts stability on Instagram, not sure if you’re getting suspended the next minute or not, scamming of innocent buyers. My business account was blocked for five days and I couldn’t post and I lost some business dealings. This for me was very painful; I get very sad and angry when I hear stories of buyers being scammed of their hard-earned money by unscrupulous people who pretend to be vendors on these apps. The straw that broke the camel’s back was that my own daughter fell a victim to these online scammers. She was scammed of N35, 000 trying to buy a wig online. We discovered that there is no authority in charge of curtailing these terrible acts for African consumers and that was how that money disappeared into thin air.
So what did you do after this incidence?
I was very sad on her behalf and I thought and thought about it for a while, wondering why no one was forthcoming with a solution and then it dawned on me that I could be the solution to this problem. The desire to fix this problem that has been around for a long time, and has been a concern to me, filled my heart and in January this year I decided that an app to combat the activities of online scammers was necessary and I started the process. This gave birth to BizShield Africa app, specifically designed for the day-to-day online running of businesses in Africa with the understanding of the business terrains and accommodation of the related problems facing African businesses. It is a combination of normal social media platforms we all use and a global ecommerce site that is better and easier to operate for all businesses and services.
How strategic do you think this is to our economy and entrepreneurial sector?
I strongly believe that this is an important move for African businesses at a time when the Internet and mobile phone industry is having a blast in Africa. Statistics show that mobile phone users grew from 445.6 million in 2011 to over 789.2 million in 2019, a number that represent 9 per cent of the world’s global internet business. Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people and it is said to have Internet penetration of 123,486,615 which is a 61.643 per cent growth of the internet in 2019, leading to over 20million twitter users, over 13 million Instagram users and 17 million Facebook users; many of which are business vendors using these platforms to market their businesses. As a business person, these statistical figures inspired me the more, because I can only imagine the number of users facing some of the problems I identified earlier, with all of the statistics, it is somewhat okay to assume that at least a 100 persons are getting scammed per day around Africa. This figure may seem very small but add it up to a month and imagine a platform like BizShield where all of this is impossible. The Internet has grown and is still growing everyday, much as it solves some problems, others are being created. Thus I took it upon myself to solve the one that affects my sector- the business environment as it affects buying and selling in Africa.
Tell us how it works?
With an estimate of over 250 million smartphone users in Africa accessing between 2.6 million Android, and 2.2 million iOS apps, there is still a vacuum for the business world and entrepreneurs in Africa. This is because most applications don’t put into consideration the many factors affecting businesses in Africa; not forgetting, factors are uniquely different with different locations. After a long period of research and notable statistics gathering by my team and I, we localized this mobile application to optimally solve the problems with daily running of businesses in Africa for Africans. The app is designed to grant its users all the features of a social media platform such as following, like, comment, save, tag, search, and so on and a standard e-commerce website where “details”, “colors”, “sizes”, “pricing”, “ratings”, “buy now”, “add to cart”, “make payment”, “waybill tracking”, and so on can be done seamlessly by both sellers and buyers. We have also incorporated the verification tag for subscribers or business owners or service providers.
A business subscriber’s account only gets verified as a trusted and authentic African seller after providing certain documents to us. This verification will certify the subscriber to be able to transact business from anywhere in Africa or beyond. In no time, buyers will come to trust buying on the app as much as they trust buying on other major platforms around the world like Amazon. With this innovative 4 in1 approach; the app is designed to help lots of businesses in Africa especially in Nigeria to flourish and thrive online, providing subscribers with a platform that delivers at ease the services of a website, social media, a user friendly interface designed to allow users have a wonderful experience while surfing through pages of subscribers and more. All a business subscriber needs to do is subscribe and create their account on the app, upload goods and services with details and it will come out looking as your own personal e-commerce website to your followers. Your followers/customers can also have access to your existing website, your e-commerce site, your app and your Instagram account or any other account you wish them to get to all on the app.
How soon can people begin to benefit from its many advantages?
It would be formally opened to the general public on March 1 next year, but business owners can jump on the train before then, as it is expected to boost business registered by 45 percent within seven weeks of its launch.. The benefits that come with using this app are enormous, we have the pre-launch offer going on already and more offers would be unveiled before March including free adverts for all pre-launch subscribers for three months and so on. Other incentives such as free shopping vouchers up to N50, 000, all expense paid trips and gifting of brand new cars will be given out to draw users from all over Africa to download and start making use of the app immediately. The app’s server is being developed and programmed in the UK and will be hosted and managed there by experts who have been engaged to allow a stress free flow of transactions for both subscribers and consumers at all times.
What last words do you want to leave with readers?
Personally, I never thought I would become a developer. I didn’t even know what social media was till my first daughter opened an Instagram account for me. That being said, you’re never too old to try something. If you notice a problem, you can be the solution to that problem. Also, patience, determination and persistence are necessary in whatever you do. I started this journey in January and many times, I almost gave up but I thank God I didn’t because I wouldn’t be here today if I had given up.