Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Gérard Niyondiko (GN): I am the co-founder and Managing Director of Maïa Africa. I hold a Master’s degree in Water and Sanitation from the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) (Burkina Faso), and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Bujumbura (Burundi). I previously worked as a chemistry teacher and a Technical Director for an industrial company in Burundi.
MB: What Led you to start MAÏA Africa?
GN: The project was born in 2013 when I was following my master’s degree in Ouagadougou. The idea was to protect vulnerable populations from malaria by leveraging their existing daily habits. The problem of malaria particularly touched me. Born in a rural area in southern Burundi, I lost some of my siblings because of the disease. I myself suffered from serious cases of malaria, causing me to be hospitalised three times when I was a child. When I became an engineer and a father, I engaged myself to act so that malaria no longer kills in Africa.
The first product to be conceived and prototyped was a long-lasting mosquito-repellent soap. The simplicity and potential impact of the project enabled me to win the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) in 2013 , an award from the University of Berkeley rewarding the best social enterprise ideas globally.
MB: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
GN: Malaria kills a child every two minutes in Africa. After years of consecutive decline, the number of malaria cases have begun to rise again since 2015. The distribution of a billion mosquito nets in Africa in 2011 changed the situation. Mosquitoes transmitting the disease have adapted. In addition to insecticide resistance, they now bite earlier in the evening and outside.
Every day in Burkina Faso, like in many sub-Saharan countries, 80% of mothers apply an ointment on the skin of their children. They do this after the evening shower, when mosquitoes begin to transmit malaria.
Inspired by this daily habit, we started to design MAÏA Africa, the first long-lasting mosquito-repellent ointment, with the National Research and Training Centre on Malaria (CNRFP).
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
BN: To scale up and put MAÏA Africa in the hands of the most vulnerable people in Africa.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
BN: Our mission is to help save 100,000 lives against malaria by distributing MAÏA Africa, the first long-lasting mosquito repellent.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
BN: Your ambition to achieve your purpose must be strong, to help keep the balance between profit and purpose.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
GN – Failure can be an option, but giving up is not an option
MB – Who inspires you?
GN – I am very inspired by the men and women who managed to impact their generation when it looked like they were destined to fail. I find a common denominator among them, their perseverance and faith in their dream allowed them to move mountains. I can quote some like Abraham Lincoln, Jack Ma, Nelson Mandela… The list can be long. Their stories energise me.
MB – How do you define success?
GN – I define success as the fulfilment of your dream.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
GN – Perseverance and patience.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
GN – “Becoming a Professional Human Being” by Jim Bagnola.
MB – What do you do to relax?
GN – I like jogging and playing guitar.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.