Youth of the Month: Assom Emmanuel
Our Youth of the Month for November 2021 is a determined Cameroonian making his mark in the healthcare sector, amidst being web developer and motion designer. Emmanuel Assom has invested time, resources and so much more into his projects since 2016, enterprising with friends and building a team that is today on course to reaping the fruits of their commitment – but as he explains, there is a long way to go and he is not relenting anytime soon.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I am Assom N. Emmanuel, web developer and motion designer and Oui Care is simply a medical booklet. In Cameroon and most sub-Saharan countries what happens when you go to a hospital is that you have a booklet for that hospital and when you go to another hospital you have another booklet and so on. So, it’s not obvious for the patient to always have these booklets; they can get missing, forgotten or you may be leaving your workplace to the hospital and not have them with you. The solution Oui Care brings to you is the possibility of having just one booklet for the first, second, third hospital – and since it’s on your phone or portable computer you have them with you at all times. This permits the doctor to have all your information while you’re with him, he knows your medical records, which hospital you went to two or three months ago. It enables him to follow your healthcare journey, know what kind of medicines you have taken and do a better diagnosis which will permit you get well soon enough and in better conditions. So that’s what we do basically with Oui Care; providing medical records for the patient and doctor, with a digital medical booklet which is available for all health units. And we didn’t just end there. During the COVID 19 outbreak, it was important that we do something; we added modules like telemedicine – you can now call a doctor via video or audio call, and you can also take a rendezvous to meet with a doctor, instead of coming at 8:00 AM and being attended to at noon. There’s also the little module called forum which permits text chat in case you can’t do video calls. There are modules designed for patients and non-patients; we do health tips for example to inform the population. You recently emerged winner of the POESAM 2021 organised by Orange Cameroon with Oui Care.
Can you tell us what problem you were trying to solve with this?!
We did some research from 2016 to 2018 while doing prototypes to know if we were truly solving a problem. We learnt that according to the World Health Organization, a significant number of death cases in sub-Saharan Africa could be traced to the lack of information on patients. Many persons die because they get to the hospital and the doctor can’t have the right information about them or their health records. Generally, they’re either doing the same tests, or prescribing drugs in contrast to the one they took elsewhere, medical errors, and so on because the doctor hasn’t the right information or is forced to search for it meanwhile it was available a couple months ago and all that lost time can lead to death. Oui Care tries to solve that problem by providing a medical booklet for all hospitals. What inspired you to develop this and what analysis can you make of its use so far?! I was born in a modest family and my plan was to venture abroad; by sea or through the desert, but I didn’t have the money for this – back then I was told I needed 1.5 million for that: I worked at Graphics System as maintenance man and also did a training in computer maintenance and saved for this adventure. I then left the house and rented my own room. My father later got ill; there were times it got really serious, six months or so. He was home with his wife on a fateful day in June 2015 and fell sick to a point where he was taken to the hospital. He got there without booklet and she tried explaining to the doctor what his health situation was which permitted the doctor to do an analysis that unfortunately took days, during which he died. I realized if his booklets had been searched thoroughly perhaps it would have gone otherwise. I later met Jean Patrick Ketcha in March 2016 and he talked to me about entrepreneurship, start-up, and terms I thought were meant for an elite. So, I began considering staying here and solving this problem to prevent someone else’s relative from dying in such circumstances, in place of traveling abroad. For a start, a few friends and I created ASTA, a company involved in the development of web applications. We did several prototypes between March 2016 and June 2018 after our finding on the World Health Organization’s statistics. Medical doctors like Dr. Tiemo Maeva, Dr. Tonio and Dr Mokam later became part and parcel of the team. When we launched We Care in June 2018, we had a few early adopters but people didn’t really believe in it. Then COVID 19 happened and people began to really get interested in We Care and discovered the full potential of it.
Did you face any major challenge in your journey so far?! If yes, how did you overcome them?!
The first major challenge was the acceptance of our project because everyone did not understand. We had to find the way to succinctly show them the usefulness of We Care. Doing prototypes from 2016 to 2018 cost us resources we barely had. The only income we had at the start was the money I had saved up for my adventure. We had to buy servers, pay people who came to do tests, transport costs to see doctors and so much more. We spent so much money for something people barely understood. At some point the money got finished. Fortunately, before launching the application in 2018 we were selected for the AYADA Lab contest and they incubated us at Active Space, saving us from some expenses like internet cost. Same year the program gave us 3000 euros which got us back to steam. Even the family barely understood us. The good thing about entrepreneurship is at least there is a select few of persons who at least understand you despite everything and it is thanks to them that we were able to attain a return on investment of 500.000 FCFA. Some people even payed just to encourage us. I remember we even had this laptop that had a detached keyboard we just managing because there was no money to assemble it.
What is your ultimate goal as a young person working in the health sector in Cameroon?!
Our objective is to bring health and wellbeing to the population. I am from a modest family and at times we don’t have money to go to the hospital. We can barely have 5.000 to go to the hospital but you realise that you’ll go there and wait two to three hours to get attended to and so you feel like it’s better to just do with the roadside medic. People want to get treated but it’s not accessibility. With Oui Care we’re trying to close this gap between patients and healthcare providers which is estimated at 2 doctors for 10.000 people. We advise people not to depend on auto medication when they can reach a doctor via their smartphone for free. Secondly, we’re trying to let the population know that we understand they need medical care which they can’t afford but we can bring the resources to them. For now, we’re making numbers without gains yet but when we’ll do, we will invest service points in neighbourhoods where the less privileged can get quality healthcare I am hereby calling on all organisations open for collaborations in this entrepreneurial and healthcare light to reach us(firstname.lastname@example.org) so that we work together to make this happen for the population of Cameroon. For now, we’re in Yaounde and Douala, why not stretch to other regions. We want to even go as far as making it possible for the population to be able to call us and have a doctor come to them and for this to happen we will need all the resource persons who can help us attain these objectives so that we meet the set target for the population.
What do you think Cameroonian youths need to know or do to become Better Breeds?!
Cameroonian youths of our generation have to understand that what is important is what they can do in in practice not just theory. There is an absolute need. Being in the field of employment and entrepreneurship I realize certificates are needed but it’s just to justify your know-how. Secondly youths have to be enterprising but it is extremely difficult and they have to know that. It is not just about winning competitions and traveling. We enterprise to solve a problem, start a company and employ youths to give them a decent job. Jobs have to be created. Our younger ones coming will need jobs and it is on to us to create those jobs now. We have to be realistic to understand that the state can’t do everything. That’s a fact. Youths have to also know that entrepreneurship is not a sine qua non solution. They also need a tough mindset; I remember coming back from Germany in 2018 and my close friends taunted at me for not doing the utmost to stay meanwhile I had a passport and visa. I was depressed for over a month but reminded myself that I was doing this to solve a problem, to honour my dad’s memory and make sure other people don’t face same problem tomorrow. In whatever we do, we have to bring our stone to the edifice of this country. It may be through innovation, start-ups, volunteerism.