‘My belief is everyone who leaves Nigeria should come back’

 Ikpeme Neto spent over decade training and working as a doctor in Ireland and New Zealand. He moved back to Nigeria in April to implement an idea that puts patients at the centre of health care services.

I was born in Lagos, and moved to Abuja in the 1990’s. After graduating from school in 2002, I wanted to study medicine, so I applied to study in the UK, however I didn’t get into any schools there unfortunately. Luckily, an opportunity came up to study Ireland, and I took that up. After a year in Ireland, I went to Trinity College to study medicine.

Dublin was interesting, and also a culture shock. The weather was cold and wet, and in fact there is a saying in Ireland that there are two seasons: the wet season and the very wet season (laughs). It was tough, but I got used to it, made a few friends and got by. There were not that many Nigerians at Trinity College when I was there, but we made the most of it, and I was active in the Afro Caribbean Society. I got to meet a lot of people and we all had fun.

After graduation I went off to do a mandatory internship, working in the south east of Ireland; at a place called Waterford. As part of the internship, I did 6 months of medicine, and 6 months of surgery.

After the internship, I got married, and we decided we didn’t want to be in Ireland anymore. At that stage we had been in Ireland for almost eight years, and we just got a bit tired of it. With the whole recession, and the tax rate going up, my take home pay was nowhere near what I was being paid on paper, so we did some research, and looked up New Zealand. We identified it as a country with a good work-life balance, among other benefits. So my wife and I packed our belongings and moved out there.

When I arrived in New Zealand, I’d already had the experience living abroad, so it wasn’t as daunting as the first time. I found the locals to be very welcoming, which made things quite easy for me. Things were going well, I could go surfing in my backyard, everything was beautiful, but then I had a close relative in Nigeria who had some health problems, and as I began to get more involved with that and get more exposed to the Nigerian healthcare system, I saw how difficult it is to get quality care in Nigeria and so I decided to do something about it. In particular there was a gap in the ability of patients with chronic diseases to track their care and medical history, and so that’s what I decided to work on. Having worked on my idea for a while from New Zealand, I decided to move back home in April 2015 to be closer to the action and develop the business from here.

I now run a business called Wella Health, which is a platform that helps people manage and track chronic disease care. Our system is an electronic platform that puts the patient at the centre of care and connects them to all their healthcare services. We have an electronic platform that is available on your mobile, tablet or computer, and that platform is connected to your lab, doctor, and pharmacist. Each of these practitioners can then interact via the platform.

It still a work in progress, we’ve really just opened our doors. It’s been a long time in planning, a lot of software development and organising ourselves. We’re now doing the outreach and getting people signed up, and that has been quite positive, especially amongst the patient community. Within the past couple of months, we have had a 10% growth week on week.

Life in Nigeria in one word is just HARD. I was away for 10 years and back here, the simplest things just take forever. Before moving back, I hadn’t been into the hall of a bank for a couple of years because everything is done online. But here, you must go into the branch, and things are slow, and the customer service is poor, which is quite painful really. Electricity is hard, and you have to plan your routine around the availability of electricity. You can’t just decide to wake up in the middle of the night to do your work. If there is no light, you are stuck. NEPA sort of dictates when you do your things. The amount of times my phone has died (due to lack of power), which puts me out of reach is just frustrating really. The work ethic is also different. I went for a meeting once, and got kept waiting for two hours; in that time I could’ve done a bunch of other productive stuff, and that’s normal here, so you need to get used to that here. Despite all these challenges, I am in Nigeria for good.

My belief is that every Nigerian who leaves should come back. A lot of countries that have developed have seen many of their diaspora communities come back. Look at countries like India, Singapore etc; these countries are doing well now partly because many of their diaspora communities have moved back. Nigeria will not reach its full potential if the diaspora stays out criticising from the outside. My advice is wherever you are you will always be Nigerian, so come back and contribute to our country’s growth.

Source: Move Back To Nigeria

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