Elizabeth Kperrun-Eremie is combining traditional African storytelling with technology to educate kids and preserve African culture. She has been recognised locally and globally for her efforts.
Barely a week has passed since celebrated Nigerian edtech entrepreneur, Elizabeth Kperrun-Eremie, was flanked by the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, as she was honored with the Commonwealth Innovation Award.
In an encounter which she herself describes as “surreal”, the brain behind Lizzie’s Creations which eventually became Zenafri Ltd. was placed in enviable company after she was recognised for her well-meaning efforts aimed at improving access and quality of education for Nigerian kids.
The award was the latest in what has actually been a long list of awards and honours for the decorated Nigerian entrepreneur. Earlier this year, she had made history by becoming the first Nigerian female to be shortlisted for the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, and that was after she had bagged the Education Award at the second ever Women in Africa Summit which took place in Morocco last year.
Add that to the attention she has enjoyed from both local and international media over the last few years and it becomes apparent how much of a big deal she’s become. And to think it all began with telling children stories. Yes, African children stories.
Elizabeth Kperrun-Eremie may have been inspired by the good old days. Those days when children cheerfully gathered under trees to listen to good old didactic tales and dance to rich cultural tunes. It would seem those days have been blown away with the raging wind of technology and the memories, wrapped up and tucked away with advances in modern communication.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be so. Those days may be long gone but the memories of the old times remain and are, in fact, renewed each day. And in no small part, this is thanks to the well-meaning Africans who have sworn to preserve the African history and rich culture through the art of storytelling.
Elizabeth Kperrun-Eremie happens to be one of such Africans who has taken up the daunting task of mashing up African culture with the ever-evolving technology. It was her vision to adapt African folk tales to the 21st century by focusing on children’s stories that teach moral lessons.
Her first effort culminated in something called AfroTalez; a mobile application through which she preserved some of the stories she was told as a child in eastern Benue state, Nigeria. With Afrotalez, Elizabeth was leveraging on the potency of good storytelling and its ability to influence the lives of children.
“Sometimes, you can’t teach a child something by telling the child, ‘Don’t do this.’ But in the context of a story, a child can learn that somebody stole something and then something bad happened to them. Alternatively, someone did something good and they ended up really happy or really rich,” she explains.
To set the ball rolling, Elizabeth gathered didactic Tiv stories from older family relatives. “Tiv” is a tribe indigenous to Benue state in Nigeria’s middle belt. She narrated these stories in her own voice as “Aunty Liz.”
She was also responsible for writing the scripts, while her husband and business partner, Idamiebi Ilamina Eremie (who actually shared a classroom with her during her secondary school days), took care of the animation and other technical details associated with making the app work.
AfroTalez was designed for children between the ages of 2 to 10 and the app was made available for download on Android devices in 2014. Within a few weeks, it had racked up more than 50,000 downloads.
She subsequently launched a company called Lizzie’s Creations to consolidate on the AfroTalez brand and in a bid to improve things, funding became necessary. To solve this problem, she undertook a crowdfunding campaign and even featured in the Nigerian version of the popular TV show; Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, leaving the “hot seat” with NGN 1 Mn.
In 2016, Elizabeth rebranded Lizzie’s Creations into an expanded children’s education platform now known as Zenafri Ltd. And things only got better from there. Through Zenafri Ltd, Kperrun has created educational apps for African kids of all ages. To date, her apps have been downloaded more than 120,000 times, and daily active users average 2,500.
Elizabeth currently calls the shots as CEO of Zenafri which has grown to become a series of mobile apps that teach toddlers and young children basic numeracy and literacy in their own language. Interestingly, she was with child when work began in earnest in developing the platform.
Zenafri’s first product was Teseem, a first words app for toddlers. It teaches toddlers the first words in English and other indigenous Nigerian/African languages. As the kids grow up to a level such that they can follow simple storylines, they can then use Afrotalez, which narrates original stories based on traditional African folklore, with an educational element added in.
Zenafri also has another app Shakara – African Dress Up and Fashion; an African dress up game for the girl child who wants to dress up as an African model in traditional ethnic styles; and also First Words for Toddler and Baby which teaches kids first words in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German and Arabic.
Elizabeth Kperrun-Eremie holds a Diploma in Mass Communication from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and a Business and Entrepreneurial Management degree from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
She’s risen to fame and acclaim for leveraging on technology and the power of mobile devices, to preserve African heritage and culture, as well as her effort in changing the means through which knowledge is transferred from generation to generation.