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‘As a woman, you can hold down a boardroom and still hold down your home’

By Esther Ijewere
21 May 2022   |   4:22 am
I am proudly Nigerian with German and Scottish heritage. I was born in Nigeria, raised in the United Kingdom, and have lived and worked across four continents.

Temi

Temi Marcella Awogboro is a pioneer and change agent passionate about unlocking the transformational power of capital as a catalyst for profound change globally and transforming lives through her work. She has committed over half a billion dollars in impact capital across emerging markets to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Temi is a core part of the investment leadership team responsible for scaling Evercare from inception in 2015 to a global platform comprising 30+ hospitals, 20+ clinics and 80+ diagnostics centers operating across 6 countries. She has been instrumental in leading the investment in building and operating one of the largest and most advanced private hospitals in Nigeria in a bid to transform healthcare in the region. Through her early-stage investment platforms, she is building and cultivating disruptive, transformative institutions that will emerge as today’s regional champions and tomorrow’s global challengers.

Temi was appointed by the President of Nigeria to sit on the Nigerian Health Sector Reform Committee under the Chairmanship of the Vice President of Nigeria. She also sits on the Equality Fund Board of Directors, Evercare Hospital Lekki Board of Directors and the Save the Children International Africa Advisory Board.

A recipient of the Future Awards Africa Prize, Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award and M&A Advisor’s European Emerging Leaders Award, she shares her inspiring story with ESTHER IJEWERE in this interview.

Childhood Influence
I am proudly Nigerian with German and Scottish heritage. I was born in Nigeria, raised in the United Kingdom, and have lived and worked across four continents. My childhood was one of discovery, adventure, and exploration. While I never felt a stranger where I lived, I also never quite fully belonged. This lived experience forced me to forge a strong personal identity that was not wedded to culture, dogmas, traditions, and ideological concepts.

I was inspired greatly by the entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic and tenacity of my parents. My father was a medical doctor turned entrepreneur, and my mother was a Miss Nigeria beauty queen, technology systems engineer, and subsequently joined my father in building the family business that straddled construction, procurement and technology. These influences are intricately woven into the individual and professional I am today.

From a tender age, my parents and close family nicknamed me “Small But Mighty” because within my pint-sized package, came mighty aspirations. As a child, I always refused to be restricted by the limits imposed by external expectations of me, with a burning desire to push beyond the limits perceived in my mind or externally imposed.

Inspiration behind my career path
I am an investment professional with over 15 years of experience in developed and growth markets. I have always been driven by my belief in the power of private capital to transform lives and my passion to unlock the power of capital as a catalyst for profound, sustainable change globally. On this journey, I have committed over half a billion in private capital to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Through my career, I have been uniquely positioned to operate at the intersection of healthcare, finance, technology and impact – often referred to as an Impact investor/healthcare operator by day and venture capitalist by night. As the Executive Director with Evercare Hospital Lekki and previous West Africa Lead of one of the first and largest dedicated impact funds globally, I have been privileged to have been part of the investment leadership responsible for scaling the fund from inception in 2015 to a global platform comprising operating across 6 countries and highlighted as one of the top 50 leaders that will “come to define the world of tomorrow.”

I have been equally driven by my belief in the central role of technology in creating a better world. Through my early-stage investment platforms, Kairos Angels and the Magic Fund, I have invested in some of the best minds and disruptive teams that are emerging as today’s regional champions and tomorrow’s global challengers.

The journey so far
My life’s course has been determined by doing the hard things. My Evercare journey started in 2015, based on my belief in healthcare as a fundamental right. On this journey, we ran into a number of unforeseen headwinds, which nearly stalled the project, not least of which was trying to commence formal operations during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Against this backdrop, it was extremely humbling and rewarding to celebrate the key milestones and groundbreaking feats achieved within the first 12 months of operations at Evercare’s 1year anniversary on March 10, 2022. Some of these milestones include successfully completing several complex clinical procedures in cardiology (five open heart surgeries, two permanent pacemaker insertions), spinal surgeries, first-of-its kind paediatric surgeries in the country and becoming the first facility in Africa to get Safecare Level 5 certification on the first accreditation exercise.

While the journey continues and there remains much work to be done, I am indeed proud of the considerable progress that Evercare has made in the past year and especially proud to say that we are on our way to transforming healthcare in Nigeria.

Challenges
As I reflect on my journey to date, I have faced a plethora of challenges; navigating my career at the epicentre of the global financial crisis, encountering significant resistance trying to break into the private equity industry, navigating the extremely lonely path rising the ranks in male-dominated industries, witnessing first-hand the destructive impact of toxic leadership and failed institutions and juggling the demands of being a present and invested mother to two toddlers, while managing my professional commitments.

I have remained optimistic and learned to thrive under the pressure of doing the ‘impossible’ fuelled by a deep sense of purpose, an unrelenting tenacity, and an unwavering belief in myself. Failure for me is an unavoidable part of living a limitless life.

Other projects and activities
As we step into the fourth industrial revolution, I believe we are called to shape this technology revolution to empower people and create more equitable outcomes for our communities and the world. I am deeply committed to investing in entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. Through my early-stage platforms, Kairos Angels and Magic Fund, I identify aspirational entrepreneurs building impactful solutions, invest in this talent, provide mentorship, access to networks and functional support to power their trajectory. Across these platforms, we have invested in over 180+ entrepreneurs globally, many of who are already emerging as today’s regional champions and tomorrow’s global challengers.

What I enjoy most about my job
I am passionate about my ability to be a change agent and catalyst to transform lives through my work. This unique positioning has been fascinating and given an invaluable opportunity to work at the forefront of paradigm shifts globally. We are at a unique point in human history where world orders are shifting; new technologies are emerging. I have so many big and audacious dreams and I am excited to continue to bring these dreams to fruition.

Three women who inspire me and why
I live my life trying to take inspiration from everyone I meet. Some women who have made an impression on me include: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who stood out for me as an unapologetic, unstoppable powerhouse, relentless in her pursuit of social justice and quest for equality.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for her role as the female to serve as both finance and foreign minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the visibility she has brought to Africa on a global stage.

Finally, Kamala Harris when in her inauguration speech, the Vice President of the USA urged young girls to “Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

This resonated profoundly with me as a woman who has often found herself in male-dominated rooms with few allies. I struggled with the absence of female role models until I embraced the power of my own dreams and started to see myself as the role model I was looking for.

The resilience of women during the pandemic
As an investor in healthcare, I have witnessed first-hand how women have stood at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis as nurses, doctors, caregivers, innovators and as some of the most exemplary and effective leaders in combating the pandemic. It is no coincidence that women led countries most successful in stemming its tide and impact of COVID-19.

But the pandemic has sadly highlighted the disproportionate burdens women carry and their inadequate representation at the highest levels of decision-making. And new barriers emerged to impede many women’s progress, such as unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty.

Importance of educating and supporting women
I have been humbled by all the coverage and recognition received in this year’s International Women’s month. In particular, I was deeply honoured to have received the recognition by Lagos State as one of the EKO 100 Women. It is said that you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women. ‘Women hold up half the sky’ and I am proud of the fact that His Excellency Governor Sanwo-Olu on behalf of the Lagos State Government took the step to recognise and celebrate the unending commitment of women to a more equal and equitable world.

Most important to me is the pledge to ‘support every effort to achieve a Lagos where all women and girls can live their lives to the fullest and achieve their potential without limits.’ My appeal is to continue to provide women a platform in the mainstream media and outside of 1 month a year. The strides many women are making are world class by any measure and deserve to be recognised, celebrated and amplified.

One thing I wish to change in the health sector
The single biggest issue facing the healthcare industry in Nigeria is the ongoing wave of brain drain, especially of clinical talent. Nigeria with over 40 per cent physician migration remains one of the leading African sources of foreign-born physicians. Evercare with its purpose-built infrastructure, best in class equipment, and focus on achieving quality metrics that meet international standards, is working hard to attract critical medical talent back to Nigeria from the Diaspora, thereby reversing some of the brain drain that plagues the sector.

It maintains a strategic focus of employing, retaining and investing in local resources to ensure a highly experienced, well-rounded, and diverse team, poised to support the advancement of medical care across Nigeria. I sincerely hope that my story and the work the Evercare team is doing, inspires more Nigerians in the diaspora to come back and take up the mantle of leadership to enable the nation to achieve its full potential both in the healthcare sector and beyond.

Being a Woman of Rubies
I love the concept of the Woman of Rubies as a forum for women across various walks of life to share their inspiring stories. As a woman that has risen through male dominated fields, trying to ‘have it all’, I am thankful for the platform to use my story to bring hope, motivate and inspire women all over the globe. I am striving to live life on my terms, fully embracing all aspects of my being and living the highest version of myself each day.

There is nothing that says you can’t be professional, ambitious, audacious, and successful but also be fun loving, free and love fashion. There is nothing that says you can’t hold down a boardroom and hold down your home. Women are powerful beyond measure, when we are liberated to demand and create the life we deserve.

My message to women everywhere is that you are powerful beyond measure, and your voice matters. Do not feel less entitled, expect more, take up more space and demand more, be bold in challenging the status quo. Finally, teach your girls to embrace a world of possibilities, to be proud of their ambition, regardless of their gender. Send them a clear message that they can be whomever they chose to be, and applaud them every step of the way.

I choose to live a life that is purpose driven, passion filled and performance oriented, and continue on my journey not focused on the pursuit of perfection, but led by the voices of those who christened me ‘Small but mighty’. They challenge me to create and compete; to build and nurture; to take risks and to leave my legacy.