Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Ghanaian health technology startup mPharma is building a network of community pharmacies across Africa as it plans to become the primary healthcare provider for millions of people living in the region.

mPharma plans to expand its community pharmacies (Mutti) in eight markets in Africa to become the primary point of care for patients. The startup’s Mutti pharmacies are essentially mini-hospitals that offer a wide range of services, including medical consultation, diagnostic and telehealth services. All this while increasing access and affordability to quality medication.

The startup now plans to activate more mutti pharmacies to expand its reach and build out its tech infrastructure as it gears up for its next growth phase after raising $35 million in Series D round.

The new funding, mPharma co-founder and CEO Gregory Rockson told BestFitnessBands, will be used to build the startup’s data infrastructure, triple its talent pool over the next three years, and support expansion plans in current and new markets. It is also rolling out an e-commerce platform for pharmaceuticals.

“We hire over 100 engineers to build all of our technology in-house and this includes a massive data infrastructure that we create. We also invest in other skilled talent, such as doctors and nurses, professionals who are critical to the work we do,” Rockson told BestFitnessBands.

“Our pharmacy management software allows us to build structured population health datasets that help Mutti pharmacies provide better pathways of care to the communities they serve,” he said.

The funding raised includes $30 million in equity and $5 million in debt from CitiBank, bringing the total amount raised by mPharma to $65 million.

Investors participating in the round include JAM Fund; a venture capital firm founded by Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, Unbound; a growth investment firm by Shravin Mittal the general manager Bharti Global limited (Bharti family investment arm) and the first investment in Africa for Lux Capital; a New York City-based VC firm that invests in science and engineering ventures. Other investors include Northstar, Social Capital, Novastar and TO Ventures.

mPharma was originally founded in 2013 by Rockson, Daniel Shoukimas and James Finucane to manage the inventory of prescription drugs for pharmacies and their suppliers, retail pharmacies and to provide hospitals, pharmacies and patients with market information.

In October last year, the startup added telehealth services to its portfolio, leveraging the telemedicine wave that emerged after the Covid pandemic. During an interview with BestFitnessBands last October, Rockson said the startup planned to have 100 virtual centers by the end of six months. The number of virtual centers is poised to grow further, in addition to mPharma’s plan to increase the number of community pharmacies 10 times over the next three years, from the current 200 centers.

Patients in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and Ethiopia, where mPharma is present, now have access to the virtual services. mPharma also has a presence in Gabon, where it has a contract with the government to build a drug supply chain infrastructure.

mPharma community pharmacies hold regular public health campaigns for random health checks and to educate the masses. Photo Credit: mPharma.

Startups like mPharma are bridging gaps in healthcare by bringing vital services closer to communities through pharmacies and community health checks, among other things.

This is a necessary commitment, as countries in sub-Saharan Africa have an average of 0.23 doctors for every 10,000 people, against the best ratio of 84.2 doctors in some of the most developed countries, according to data from the World Health Organization.

In addition to a low doctor-patient ratio, the healthcare infrastructure also remains seriously underdeveloped.

“Covid has shown us that the best form of care is local, it is in the community, and pharmacies are the closest to communities. We believe that the pharmacy of the future we are creating will be one built around longitudinal care, not episodic care,” Rockson said.

“We are transforming community pharmacies into the foundation of a modern health system in Africa. We will have a Mutti pharmacy in every community on the continent. Ensure the availability and safety of medicines for every community and leverage Mutti pharmacies’ physical infrastructure to expand Mutti Doctor (the telemedicine service) and create the largest network of doctor’s offices and diagnostic centers.”

To offer all-round services, mPharma rolled out an e-commerce platform a few weeks ago – the Mutti Online Pharmacy – that allows its members to purchase pharmaceutical products. Starting in Ghana, they will initially only provide over-the-counter medicines, but plan to add prescription medicines in the near future. Mutti Online Pharmacy from mPharma is now one of the few exclusively digital pharmacies, including MyDawa in Kenya, with branches in Africa.

mPharma has also embarked on diversification, partnerships and expansion strategies in recent months to grow the business. A few months ago, it acquired a 55% stake in Uganda’s Vine Pharmacy, previously owned by the Abraaj Group. It also entered Ethiopia last March by signing a franchise agreement with Belayab Pharmaceuticals through its subsidiary Haltons Limited.

mPharma enjoys expertise backed by experienced professions in the pharmaceutical industry, including Helena Foulkes, former president of CVS, the largest pharmacy chain in the US and Daniel Vasella, ex-CEO and president of Novartis; both are members of the board. The startup’s other investors include UK development arm CDC Group, Breyer Capital and Golden Palm Investments.

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