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Triumph Punctuated By Tragedy

Bankole Cardoso is one of Africa’s young entrepreneurs selected for FORBES AFRICA’s 30 Under 30 list. Success in business, however, coincided with losing his mother to Ebola. He is now working to keep her values alive.

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Stella Ameyo Adadevoh is responsible for preventing an Ebola epidemic engulfing Nigeria. She was the doctor that identified Nigeria’s first Ebola patient. Patrick Sawyer had flown in from Liberia and was suspected of having malaria. Adadevoh suspected something more serious and quarantined Sawyer, despite pressure from Liberia’s government to release him. She saved many lives but lost her own.

The hemorrhagic disease killed Sawyer and Adadevoh. It was a traumatic time for her son, Bankole Cardoso, the Co-Founder of Easy Taxi Nigeria.

“The last time I saw her, she was very weak and it was difficult to see her like that… I had never seen her sick in my life. We spoke through the window and I was crying. Her last words were, ‘this thing is not going to kill me, I am very proud of you,’” says Cardoso.

The tragedy led to the 27-year-old Cardoso and his family setting up the Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh Health Trust.

“Everybody in my family has pulled together in this difficult time. It has built a new focus to use the health trust that we have set up in memory of my mother to positively impact the Nigerian health system. I lived through it and we saw where the failures in the system were and we are working on fixing it.”

Cardoso left Nigeria after primary school to take his GCSEs at one of Britain’s oldest schools, Rugby School. He then earned an accounting and business management degree from Boston College in the United States.

He got a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in New York and become a certified public accountant. Cardoso then ventured into the capital markets with Carlyle Group.

After two years at Carlyle Group, Cardoso yearned to return to Africa.

“The entrepreneurial journey for me began officially when I moved back to Africa in July 2013… I had many business ideas I was working on but I knew whatever I did, it had to be done in Africa,” he says.

Cardoso saw a gap in the market.

“I realized there was nothing like a taxi culture in Nigeria. People have been scared for various reasons to use taxis. I used Uber a lot in New York and it was an exciting technology that I loved.”

Easy Taxi was one of his first ideas and the one that had the most potential.

“Easy Taxi, at the time, existed in Brazil. I approached Africa Internet Group (AIG) and they were also interested in the business model. We started testing out the technology and seeing if it would work in Africa.”

AIG is the largest internet company in Africa with ecommerce giants like Jumia, Jovago and Kaymu under its portfolio.

Easy Taxi is a free smartphone app that allows users to request taxis. It uses GPS to connect users to the drivers closest to them, sends the user the driver’s information and allows the user to track the driver on the map in real time. Cardoso spent day after day driving around Lagos and talking to taxi drivers about the app.

“They looked at me like I was crazy.”

The technology was difficult for the drivers to understand. Cardoso had to teach them how to respond to customers and how to use Google Maps.

After success with Easy Taxi, Cardoso became the Group Head of Communication for AIG.

He also spends a lot of time working with the health trust his family set up to make an impact in Nigeria’s health sector, just like his mother did.

“She chose to treat Sawyer instead of letting him leave, even though at the time the Nigerian healthcare was on strike. She chose to stay and treat someone who needed help. Those are the type of ethics she stood for.”

Those ethics will continue with Cardoso.

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