Maisha technologies is a drone design company that has just received an investment for the development of its Nisre-Tena design. The funding was part of a $150K grant awarded to 12 startups from Kenya and Ethiopia.
In an interview with Pioneers Post, Tizzita Mengesha Tefera, who is the CEO and co-founder of the drones for good venture, gave a brief description of their journey. She mentions how she landed an audience with the Minister for Education via a single tweet. The tweet was an image of their first drone prototype and tagged the country’s health minister who surprisingly contacted them directly.
Tizzita grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, and went to study social entrepreneurship at Roskilde University in Denmark. In 2016, she then relocated to Addis Ababa. Her company began investing in a mobile health platform targeting expectant women with informational texts. She later pivoted from that approach when she discovered one of the main causes of deaths among women during childbirth is hemorrhaging – which can be avoided via blood transfusion.
The problem solved
Moving the much-needed blood from the 24 government-owned blood banks to where they are needed posed a logistical challenge. The demand and delivery of blood services are sporadic and can drag on for over eight hours in worst-case scenarios. Delays happen due to the difficult terrain and limited transport infrastructure. A drone can easily bypass these challenges by flying overhead.
Co-founder Fassika Fikre Hailemeskel, an aerospace engineer, began working on a drone design that could transport blood within a 200 km travel range. The drone designs were endorsed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which earned them a vital grant under the Global Grand Challenges initiative in 2017. The design was named Nisre-Tena and is to be perfected in a way that keeps costs at a minimum and delivers on air-worthiness and flight performance.
Tizzita also pointed out the difficult path they took having to obtain permissions and authorizations to fly their drones in an environment where there are no existing laws or legislations. Their meeting with the Minister for Health was the breakthrough they needed as it opened up endless opportunities.
Nisre-Tena was shortlisted for a 6-month aerospace accelerator, Africa for Future, sponsored by Airbus and German body GIZ. This was a great chance to network hard-to-source materials and get expertise on technical issues. Tizzita attributes their success thus far to their persistence rather than sheer luck.
Tizzita is now focussed on the manufacture of drones and selling to those who have the expertise to operate them. She displays humility by accepting their over-ambition in trying to manufacture and operate the drones initially. She revealed that her strategy heavily focusses on lessons learned from previous drone manufacturers.