After recently launching its Android App, Panacea, a Nigerian e-library startup, is geared towards revolutionizing the education sector in Africa. The IBCA caught up with its founder who shed some light on what it is all about and their future plans.
How can you define the technology sector in Nigeria?
Panacea: Technology in Nigeria is growing and growing fast. Both government and private sectors are embracing technology as quick as possible. Technology adoption across Nigeria has also been very encouraging lately.This is evident in the number of tech startups springing up in Nigeria and the effects they’re having across Africa. In a few years, technology will become a powerful economic driving force in Nigeria.
Can you walk us through how Panacea works?
Panacea: Panacea e-library can be accessed by anyone who has created a free account on the web platform at www.panacea.ng or via the mobile app. Users who desire to access premium resources will be required to pick up a subscription or pay a nominal monthly access charge per resource. We have many free resources that can be accessed at absolutely no cost. You require no payment or subscription to access free books and we are constantly seeking new partnerships to ensure there are sufficient free learning materials on the platform for everyone, especially students.
The Panacea e-library (with access from www.panacea.ng) book rental solution provides an opportunity for customers to rent books and resources over a period of time. Panacea is an online resource for learners, authors and publishers.
Panacea seeks to make learning fun and rewarding by making books more readily accessible to students, researchers and personal development enthusiasts while generating consistent revenue for authors and publishers through a global community of readers.
Our books are offered in an encrypted digital format that enhances a great reading experience while preventing piracy and duplication thus guaranteeing maximum profit for authors and publishers.
Panacea e-library solves the problem of accessibility to and affordability of books and resources. It provides convenience in getting required/desired knowledge at any time. It gives users the flexibility of acquiring knowledge in the comfort of their homes and offices.
What made you think of starting it?
Panacea: The idea of the platform was conceived November 2015 and we launched out with a market survey in December 2015. We started development in January 2016 and we launched for Author registration and upload July 2017. And in February 2018, we launched the Beta version of our Android App.
In October 2015, I wanted to read more books but didn’t want to buy all, primarily because I couldn’t afford to, especially school approved text books, so I called a few friends to find out if there’s a library or business service I could use but I couldn’t find any in my locality. I also did Internet search and realized it’s not a popular service in Nigeria and across Africa so we decided to build a service around the problem.
You recently launched your Android App. Tell us more about it.
Panacea: The mobile app is an extension of our web platform, but without all the complexities that come with web applications. The app is designed to ensure an enjoyable user experience.
Once you install and launch the app from Google Play store (with access from www.panacea.ng/android ) you will be requested to either log in or sign up for an account after which you will be able to access all features. You can access a book by choosing from the recommended resources or by navigating to “Resources” where you get a complete list of all resources on the platform. Books can be sorted based on category, author and title.
How will Panacea boost the education sector in Nigeria?
Panacea: Our primary reason for starting Panacea is to make learning resources affordable and readily accessible. This undergirds everything we do, leading us to create access options that fit every budget. We operate a freemium subscription model that allows users to pay for just what they need. Upon signing up for a free account, readers can choose to remain on the free plan in which case they will only be able to access free resources. Or they can choose from a range of relatively low-priced subscriptions depending on the number of books or resources they would like to access per month. With as little as 200 naira (0.55 dollar) you can have full access to a textbook or any resource of choice for 30 days. Our most expensive subscription is 5, 000 naira (13.85 dollars) per month. That’s 60, 000 naira (166.20 dollars) per annum and it gives access to about 400 books.
We have placed priority on expanding our database of free books. We know that quite a number of people in the world, especially in Africa are disadvantaged; unable to afford/gain access to learning materials and it’s important to us to get such materials to them in order to aid their learning and improve their lives.
We are seeking partnerships to expand our free book database especially in the area of academic texts so that students who really need these resources can gain access to them without charge.
In the coming months, we plan to start adopting schools across Africa; setting up electronic libraries and equipping such schools with facilities that will enable them access our database without charge.
Also, We’re working hard to deliver quality library services on our platform. One of the important things we hope to achieve within the next five years is to ensure that school children never have to buy textbooks again if they are unable to afford them. Our goal is to provide schoolbooks from primary education to tertiary education free of charge on our platform. So it’s not just about profit and revenue only, our focus is equally on impacting lives across Africa.
How else can innovation harness education and literacy especially in Africa?
Panacea: Internet access is improving innovation across Africa. We currently have users from 7 different African countries and we know this trend will continue to grow. That’s the power of the Internet!
What I think governments across Africa should do is to ensure that quality Internet is delivered to the people and that no one is denied access to it. This means investing in infrastructure that will make Internet services cheaper, faster and more reliable.
With that in place, education and literacy will become cheaper and more accessible and this will rapidly improve lives across Africa.
What are the challenges of scaling to penetrate more market segments especially within Africa?
Panacea: Our user base expands daily. We currently have users from a total of 12 countries and 4 continents, including 7 African countries.
We want to work with more authors and publishers from across Africa to ensure they get their content on the platform so that users from their countries can access localized content.
What is the most rewarding and challenging part of what you do?
Panacea: The most challenging part of what we do is the environment.
The environment can be choking. The basics in-terms of structure and infrastructure are a big deal. Sometimes it feels like the systems are built to make you fail.
The most rewarding part of what we do is seeing the impact we’re having all over Africa. It’s really encouraging us to do more and to be better.
How can one take advantage of the fact that Nigeria has the largest online presence in Africa?
Panacea: Nigeria having the largest online presence is closely related to Nigeria having the largest population in Africa. To take advantage of this huge opportunity, it’s important to tailor your product or service to fit the Nigerian market.
The Nigerian market is one of the most diversified markets on the continent, several languages, cultures and traditions come into play so it’s important to get things right. For example, it’s difficult to come up with a single advertising campaign for all regions of the country; you must have different campaigns to capture different regions. The market is however very open and responds positively to good services and products.
What advice would you give to future Tech-preneurs?
Panacea: “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11
Some call it luck, but I call it favour, we all need a bit of it. Your time and chance will come, but you need to persevere, and while you wait for it to come, continue to work hard and prepare for your opportunity.