Healthtech Startup mPharma Launches in Ethiopia

The Ghanaian healthcare company enters eighth market in SSA and third in East Africa

mPharma, the Ghanaian startup that manages prescription drug inventory for pharmacies and their suppliers announced Thursday that it has entered Ethiopia through a franchise agreement. The Horn of African nation becomes its eighth market in sub-Saharan Africa and third in East Africa.

Headquartered in Ghana, mPharma was founded in 2013 by Daniel Shoukimas, Gregory Rockson, and James Finucane. The technology-driven healthcare company focuses on vendor-managed inventory, retail pharmacy operations, and market intelligence to serve hospitals, pharmacies, and patients.

By 2018, mPharma went live in Nigeria and a year later, it acquired 85% ownership in Haltons, the second-largest pharmacy chain in Kenya, after which it entered the market and took control of 27 stores across the country.

mPharma currently operates in Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, and two unnamed countries. It claims to serve more than 100,000 patients monthly and has distributed over a million drugs to Africans from 300 partner pharmacies across the continent.

Now in Ethiopia, mPharma aims to increase patient access to affordable and quality medications through a partnership with Belayab Pharmaceuticals PLC signed via Haltons. Both firms plan to open two operational pharmacies in Addis Ababa this year.

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Each pharmacy will offer the company’s consumer loyalty membership program called Mutti, where they’ll get discounts and financing options to access medication, CEO Rockson said.

Africa’s $50 billion pharmaceutical market faces challenges such as sprawling supply chains, low order volumes, and exorbitant prices. Without access to medicines, many Africans suffer preventable or easily treated diseases – such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS – because they cannot afford to buy their medications.

mPharma is solving these problems by increasing access to medications at a reduced cost while assuring and preserving quality.

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“There are issues of fragmentation in pharmacy retailing, poor standards, and high prices that haven’t been fixed. The African opportunity is still huge, and we are still at the beginning stages of privatisation of healthcare on the continent,” Rockson said.

The expansion drive of mPharma has been supported by sufficient investor backing in its quest to build good healthcare in Africa. The startup is well-funded having raised over $50 million including a Series C round of $17 million last year.

The Ethiopia franchising is part of a growth plan of enabling companies looking to enter the pharmacy retail sector. The goal is to provide access to a “pharmacy-in-a-box” solution where mPharma handles every infrastructure involved, and the pharmacy is just concerned about the consumer.

“What we’ve done is that we enable these pharmacies with our software, and we have the backend physical infrastructure and warehousing,” Rockson said. “They can rely on mPharma to do all the background work from getting the products into your pharmacy and also providing the software infrastructure to be able to run delivery services while they focus on clinical care.”

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