How did an African founder build a health tech startup in Sweden
Journalist, radio & TV host, PR connoisseur, board member of the Swedish-East Africa Chamber of Commerce, all the way to CEO of her own e-health company — Prudence Persson is, to put it modestly, a powerhouse of the Skåne innovation scene, worthy of a virtual standing ovation.
Her journey in the Nordic paysage kicked off with a long flight from Lusaka, Zambia. She was awarded the prestigious Swedish Institute Scholarship to pursue an MSc at Lund University.
It was my first time outside of Africa, and to be honest, I was both nervous and excited because I had no idea what Sweden had in store for me.
Prudence first set foot onto the fika & startups land in 2012, but it was in her home country that the spirit of entrepreneurship was born, inherited from and nurtured by her mother. Quitting the army and starting her own business, her mom is, no wonder, her biggest role model.
When touching upon her upbringing with all the good, bad and in-betweens, Prudence said families have immense influence on us.
“We are raised by our community. In my grandparents’ generation, a child meant a boy, and every woman was expected to conceive at least one boy, otherwise the family wouldn’t be complete.”
The society she grew up in wouldn’t yet give up on this infuriating philosophy. If the family wouldn’t have enough money, they would only send the boy to school. Prudence wouldn’t be here right now had her mother not been a vehement advocate against this mindset, believing everyone should get an education.
Girls pushed into the backseat should fiercely say: “No, I’m sitting right here in the front.”
When her mom got diagnosed with a tumor, Prudence bumped into the life-threatening issues of the medical system in Zambia. Lusaka hospitals had no websites, you had to go hospital by hospital to find information, get appointments and would spend hours in the waiting rooms. The worst part — this situation was not unique to her family. There was this harsh reality of 28 million people dying from chronic diseases all over Africa at that time.
In 2017, she founded Industry Frontiers out of the dire urgency to redirect Swedish companies towards the ever-growing African markets. It has since pivoted to a tech company, creating a digital health ecosystem, Africa’s self-proclaimed no. 1 chronic disease management platform, also known by the name of Manje Health.
(adverb) | /man-je/
“Pushing yourself to the limit is worth it.” claimed one of her social media posts.
It sometimes appears that the infamous work-life balance is not much of a discussion point in the scramble for success. The dark underbelly of the entrepreneurial world is indeed the hustle culture.
You might say it’s all in good faith — judging from the lengthy list of achievements. Prudence enumerates plenty of noteworthy deeds, from launching the Branding Africa Conference in 2016, to building a digital ecosystem Africa.