mPharma saves Gabon 30% in health procurement costs

By Jonas Nyabor
Posted on Monday, 26 September 2022 11:23

mPharma is upgrading Gabon's pharmaceutical infrastructure after signing a deal with the government. Photo of workers at Biofem Industries in Lagos, Nigeria December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Nneka Chile

A year after signing an agreement with the government of Gabon to overhaul the country’s drug distribution processes, mPharma’s CEO Gregory Rockson says the investment is already paying off.

In September 2021, officials of the Gabonese Strategic Investment Fund (FGIS) entered a partnership with Ghanaian health technology company mPharma. It was hoped that the deal would repair Gabon’s National Pharmaceutical Office (OPN), which has been inefficient for at least five years.

In the last year, “we have saved the government about 30% in procurement cost compared to what they spent on that service previously”, Gregory Rockson tells The Africa Report.

His company was tasked to digitalise the whole pharmaceutical supply chain in Gabon and improve access to drugs by public health structures. The deal with the Gabonese government is the first of its kind for the Ghanaian company.

The OPN fell under the management of the FGIS in 2020 as part of efforts to revitalise the previously efficient institution, which continued to suffer amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was important for us to work with a partner with extensive experience on the continent and who is aligned with our vision and our ambitions in the healthcare sector

In the same year, the FGIS provided CFA3.5bn ($5m) of a CFA5bn commitment to the OPN for the following five years.

However, thanks to the partnership with mPharma, the system has become a lot more efficient and has been a positive experience for both parties so far.

“It was important for us to work with a partner with extensive experience on the continent and who is aligned with our vision and our ambitions in the healthcare sector,” says Aunel Loumba, FGIS Head of Communications.

Undertaking the kind of digital transformation required in Gabon’s drug accessibility segment “is quite challenging. This has been quite tough to implement in an ecosystem with poor digitalisation. These challenges were faced together as one team with our partner [mPharma], who understands well the realities of the continent”, he tells The Africa Report.

mPharma’s promise

Rockson says the progress made by mPharma confirms his company’s determination to deliver on the assignment and readiness to pursue similar public-private partnership projects across Africa.

“This is a good example of a public-private collaboration between the government and the private sector that is yielding dividend[s] for the country at large,” says Rockson.

“We’ve renovated warehouses across the country, we’ve built a digital infrastructure for the central medical stores and for the first time in five years, the central medical stores have been supplying drugs to government hospitals in the country,” he says.

By the end of the technical partnership contract, Gabon is hopeful that there will be technology transfer to allow locals to move forward with the gains spearheaded by mPharma.

Last year, mPharma raised $35m in equity and debt to expand its operations across its eight markets: Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Gabon and Uganda.

Much of that sum will be invested in hiring engineers as the company continues to acquire businesses and forge new partnerships in West and Central Africa.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve invested over $40m building robust supply chain systems, investing in community pharmacies to help renovate them and improve their quality for patient care and we continue to see the business grow as we do what is right,” Rockson says.

Besides the arrangement with mPharma, FGIS is conducting feasibility studies into opportunities identified within Gabon’s medical diagnosis sector for possible investments.

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