| Feb 24, 2023

A Tech Solution to Blood Crisis: How LifeBank Saved 20,000 Lives

With no infrastructure to facilitate communications between blood banks and hospitals in Nigeria, Temie Giwa-Tubosun built her own.

As an intern, Temie Giwa-Tubosun witnessed a medical team standing immobile as a dying woman bled uncontrollably from birthing complications in northern Nigeria. Moved by the trauma, Giwa-Tubosun set out to encourage blood donation in a country where misunderstandings about why someone should donate blood, blood transfusion concerns, and other taboos have led to chronic shortages. “I think it’s so important for the face of the victim of a particular phenomenon to be similar to the face of the hero that solves that phenomenon. I think it’s so important for people’s psyche,” Giwa-Tubosun told me in the From Blueprint to Solved podcast

In 2012, Giwa-Tubosun created the One Percent Project, which attracted an impressive board of trustees, including Forbes’ 2018 “30 Under 30” honoree, enterprise technology entrepreneur Iyin Aboyeji. Seeking to address the huge demand, the One Percent Blood Donation Enlightenment Foundation nonprofit grew so rapidly that it needed to pivot from a charity organization to a business. When Giwa-Tubosun then experienced the same birth complications as the woman in northern Nigeria, this strange coincidence led to an epiphany. 

“I knew how terrible I felt in the hospital bed, how it feels for other women in similar conditions. I decided I had to save lives,” she said in an interview with Africa Renewal. The only difference in her situation, she realized, was that she was in an American hospital that gave her the best medical care. 

“Globally, the face of maternal mortality are Black women, not just Black women in developing countries — specifically Black women in America as well,” she told me. “So if we are the face of this problem, I  also think it’s essential that we be the face of the people who are solving the problem.” 

The Challenges Around Blood

Postpartum hemorrhage, which Giwa-Tubosun could have died from, is the number one cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria — 556 women across Sub-Saharan Africa bleed to death after birth every day. But Giwa-Tubosun knew if she could move blood to the hospitals that needed them, she could save four out of five women. And so the idea for LifeBank was born.

Although Giwa-Tubosun’s blood and medical distribution company has expanded to Ethiopia and Kenya and offers various products, it all began with blood distribution in Nigeria. To understand the challenges surrounding blood, Giwa-Tubosun asks us to picture Lagos, Nigeria, as New York, but without the infrastructure. 

One of the first difficulties she faced was putting hospitals and blood banks in communication. Patients died when practitioners couldn’t locate the right blood type or amount. Blood can also go bad quickly, especially in a hot and heavily trafficked city like Lagos. Add to this the fact that blood storage — requiring a sterile bag, refrigeration, and anticoagulants to prevent clotting — is expensive. 

Nigeria only holds 50,000 blood units compared to the World Health Organization’s suggestion of two million a year. Around 10% of HIV infections in the country are the result of malpractice blood transfusions, leading to Nigerians’ understandable fear of donating blood due; there is also poor education on blood donation.


Giwa-Tubosun Rises to the Challenge

How does one work around a challenge when there’s no infrastructure? They build their own. “Because there was already a huge gap, we were able to grow quickly in our first year. It was like we were solving a problem people didn’t even know they had,” recalls Giwa-Tubosun. When Life Bank started, the goal was to be a tech-based company putting blood banks and hospitals in better communication, not a distribution company. However, Giwa-Tubosun soon realized hospitals desperately needed blood delivered. LifeBank began to branch out from a single solution to a three-pronged approach to a complex problem:


Lifebank confronted both a surplus and a blood shortage in Nigeria. Donated blood has about a six-week shelf life. However, due to the lack of communication between hospitals and blood banks, unused blood went bad while other locations needed more units. 

In the beginning, LifeBank offered a 24-hour call service. Medical professionals could verify the location of a specific blood type and amount. Although this was a good solution initially, practitioners and hospitals had to call in multiple times for updates. In early 2022, LifeBank launched its Nerve app, which digitizes the order and fulfillment process of medical supplies. 


Currently, LifeBank uses bikes, trucks, drones, and tricycles to get blood to where it needs to be delivered. LifeBank works 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Part of its tech solution was to partner with Google Nigeria to quickly locate hospitals and blood banks before dispatching riders. Once the riders see the location on Google Maps, they are able to cut down delivery time to 45 minutes or less. Delivery options have since expanded to AirBank, a oxygen delivery service, and ColdBank, a system which uses a remote temperature tracking system to properly store, refrigerate, and deliver temperature-sensitive medical products like insulin. 


In many parts of the world, counterfeit medicine is a huge issue that leads to additional hospitalizations, even deaths. The LifeBank team needed to ensure the quality of their product, so they created SmartBag. SmartBag works through a web application and uses blockchain to verify a product’s safety information such as a donor’s code, tests, and screener information. If healthcare providers or hospitals don’t have access to smartphones, they can use USSD shortcodes to access the same information.  

Building Towards the Future

Giwa-Tubosun envisions LifeBank not just in its current locations in Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia, but all over the developing world. “I have great, big, giant, audacious dreams for LifeBank. The problem we are solving is not only a Nigerian problem or an African problem, it’s a problem that exists in developing countries — countries that have not figured out their infrastructure,” she told Katie Couric when she received the 2020 Global Citizen Prize for Business Leader award. 

In 2021, LifeBank launched the BOAT Foundation, which fully pays for or subsidizes medical supplies including blood, oxygen, and medicine for low-income Africans. The funds for the BOAT Foundation come from both individual and company donations. As LifeBank continues to scale, it faces infrastructure challenges, which is why Giwa-Tubosun says that they use all sorts of vehicles to reach those that desperately need them. According to inclusivebuisness.net, LifeBank has saved 20,000 lives since its inception in 2016 and will continue to save lives through its multifaceted tech-driven solutions.

Lauren Gombas
Lauren Gombas

Opinion Contributor,

Lauren Gombas is a writer from Colorado who enjoys exploring new ideas and whose creative experience ranges from podcasting and blog writing to public art. view profile


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