How this Nigerian startup is enabling people to pay for health insurance with recyclable materials

In this #MeetTheMB100 series, we are profiling the winners of the 2021 MB100; leaders combining profit and purpose to help achieve the UN Global Goals.

This interview series is sponsored by EY.

Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.

Chinonso Oprum (CO): My name is Chinonso Opurum, and I am the Founder and CEO at SOSO CARE. I started my career in banking then moved into telemedicine, and finally micro pensions for the informal sector, before fully starting SOSO CARE.



Chinonso Opurum, CEO, SOSO CARE


MB: Please introduce your business and the problems you’re trying to solve.

(CO): SOSO CARE is a low cost health insur-tech which accepts cash or recyclables as premium to enable millions of people to access care across over 1,000 hospitals in Nigeria. Like most developing countries, Nigeria faces two catastrophic problems every year.


Firstly, we generate over 30 million tons of waste around the country. This accounts for over 20 billion plastic bottles, of which less than 5% are collected and recycled. States like Lagos, with a population of over 25 million, are estimated to produce about 14,000 metric tons of waste daily, creating environmental problems, pollution and public health issues. Plastic blocking water ways can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes – a vector for malaria affecting thousands of people yearly. This also affects marine life as the plastic gets dumped into the river and ocean. 


Secondly, poverty means more people are in need of healthcare as over 180 million people, roughly over 90% of the population of 200 million, do not have access to basic health insurance. With over 100 million people living below the poverty line, out of pocket health financing means more people are dragged into poverty from unexpected health spending.


Low access to health inclusion means over 55,000 women lose their lives every year from pregnancy and thousands of children die from simple cases of malaria, or a cough, which is preventable with access to quality healthcare.


Both these problems are huge but their market value is big.  As a company we thought of how best we can solve these problems by using one of the issues to tackle the other, so we created SOSO CARE.


Our members access care by choosing a plan and paying online, or by simply delivering recyclable materials like bottles, glass, and plastics bags to our partner agents, who sell the collected waste to big recycling companies as raw materials. 


We partner with an insurance company, Hygeia HMO, to underwrite the insurance risk, and the money generated from the sales is converted into a health fund to finance the annual premium to access healthcare across over 1,000 hospitals nationwide.




MB: What is your biggest challenge right now and what support do you need?

(CO): The opportunity in healthcare and recycling is huge, profitable and sustainable. Our biggest challenge at this stage is to attract more funding to improve our technology, empower our agents and invest more in awareness to reach more people.





MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?

(CO): Our ambition is to be able to reach at least 10 million Nigerians in the next seven years. If we can help this many Nigerians generate insurance with recyclables, we will unlock more funds for families who would otherwise need to finance expensive and unplanned medical needs out of pocket. 






Quickfire Questions

MB – Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from:

(CO): Starting telemedicine in 2018 in Nigeria and hoping it would help us reach millions of people in disconnected communities bridge healthcare access. We failed to understand that internet is a luxury to these people and most of them don’t have smart phones to connect with a doctor online. 


MB – How do you spend your time away from work?

    (CO): I spend most time at work but if it’s not work then it must be a group call with friends or computer games. 


MB – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

(CO): To dump telemedicine and start something else, Nigeria is not ready for it now. This was actually from the Dr. Femi Kuti, the CEO of Reliance Health Insurance. 


MB – What is the one book everyone should read?

(CO): I think anyone interested in emerging markets and informal sector should read ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits


MB – What is something you wish you were better at?

(CO): Coding.


MB – What’s one thing you want to achieve in 2022?

(CO): To reach at least 100,000 new users who don’t have health cover.



Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2021 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.


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