The story of mPedigree actually began before mPedigree. It began with a start-up called Wospro between 2004 and 2005. I was then in Europe, criss-crossing the continent as a researcher, citizen journalist, perennial student, and part-time activist. I was also battling a skin condition that I slowly begun to attribute to Europe’s chemical laden food. I had switched to ‘organic’ food to improve this condition, and then one day it hit me.
My only way of telling that one pack of cereal or jar of raspberries was ‘organic’ was entirely dependent on a seal placed on that pack by an institution I trust. ‘Trust’ in this sense was highly automated, allowing millions of packs of cereals to travel the world bearing an insignia that hundreds of millions of consumers could connect with well-being. I realised that though many African farmers grew their food organically they could not make the premiums that organic farmers in Europe. I assembled a team of doctoral students from LSE, MIT, and Dartmouth to tackle this problem. We thought we could change the situation through a nifty piece of technology I designed called, ‘Virprox’.
Unfortunately, we failed due to lack of resources. One day, I saw a news item about young children dying from suspected fake medicines in Nigeria. Then it hit me again: this is about ‘policing trust’. I updated the Virprox concept into something called UPAP which added layers of advanced security to the trust automation technology. Another team came together, and in 2007, the new technology platform, then called mPedigree, was tested in the pharmaceutical industry in Ghana. The following year, NAFDAC showed interest after seeing it at work. Four years of intense preparatory work, some of which involved the building of global partnerships with the likes of Hewlett Packard and major telecom companies in Africa, saw the full launch of a much revamped technology platform called ‘Goldkeys’ Nigeria. We haven’t looked back since.