Delivering medicines at the doorstep of urban and rural Nigerians
Abimbola Adebakin is one of the five Women Empowerment award winners. The Nigerian serial entrepreneur is Chief Executive Officer of Advantage Health Africa (AHA), a health solution company that renders technology, products and services to promote access to affordable and quality healthcare across Africa. One of the products that AHA developed is the medicine ordering platform myMedicines. Through this digital platform, Abimbola Adebakin and her team managed to significantly increase access to medicines for customers all across Nigeria. But the journey to launch this platform was not without its challenges.
Women Empowerment Award Winner
How did you come up with the idea to start myMedicines?
“I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and I hold a degree in Pharmacy as well as a Master’s in Business administration from the University of Lagos. I have experience in both sectors. The pharmaceutical industry faces a series of challenges. Imagine this; in a country with 200 million inhabitants, there are only 5,000 pharmacies operating in only 25% of the country! The rural areas in particular are underserved. As a result, instead of accessing medicines in one of the licensed pharmacies, many people in Nigeria end up buying their medicines from other places. This is not without its risks: The World Health Organization recently showed in a study that 17% of the medicines in Nigeria are counterfeited.”
“I have worked as a management consultant for many years and I learned so much about systems, efficiency and procedures. As a consultant, I worked a lot in the financial services sector and when I started comparing it with the pharmaceutical industry I noticed how little of the workflow was digitalized. Prescriptions were hand-written with no central database of prescribers, patients’ histories were non-present in a reliable record base; the logistical supply system was not traceable, etc. etc. Pharmacies have quite limited inventories, which means that even if a pharmacy is nearby, customers might not be able to find the medicine they are looking for. What also happens is that when demand for a product is low, a medicine sits in stock for too long. From that experience, I started working on an idea to link as many pharmacies as possible to a digital platform. In 2017, myMedicines was born as a prototype of shared services.
How does myMedicines work exactly?
myMedicines is essentially a medicine ordering platform for Nigerians. Through its platform, it brings together licensed pharmacies across almost all states in Nigeria with those in need of high-quality, affordable medicines. Medicines are crowdsourced from pharmacies nation-wide. Not only does the platform help solve access and ease of purchase for users, it is also ensuring the safety of drugs purchased.
Through our platform, a health worker can submit a prescription on behalf of their patient. We can then verify where a certain product is in stock. The medication is picked up from a pharmacy closest to the customers and then delivered at their doorstep. In 2017, we did a pilot with 55 pharmacies. We currently have 1,000 fulfilling pharmacies on our platform. We started with a partnership with the courier arm Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) which is the main entity that extensively covers the country with its 5,000-man workforce and its 1,000 offices spread across the country. This has enabled myMedicines to deliver drugs and pharmaceuticals to customers across the country. Now we partner with other logistics partners and we currently do an in-house trial to see how we can increase the efficiency of the doorstep delivery even further.
What is your business model?
We receive a margin on every sale a pharmacy makes, from the pharmacy. This way, we make sure that our income does not result in a higher price for the customer. Each active fulfillment pharmacy receives around 10 to 20 prescriptions per month. Our target is to make sure that 50% of the overall pharmacy sales comes through our platform. And we could replicate our model and integrate other health related services. For example, by expanding our network and working together with NGOs, we could link family planning service providers to young women, or bring malaria or HIV prevention and treatments to people in need. The possibilities are endless.
What does it mean to be a winner for the women empowerment award?
When our team looked at the criteria for the award, we thought these were created specifically for our organization, it spoke to what we do in reality. The Bayer Foundation’s vision ‘Health for All, Hunger for None’ is also written in our own DNA. Winning the award is such a validation for myself and my team. We are not only grateful for the cash gift, we also benefit from receiving capacity development support for myself and the management team. This is giving us the opportunity to revisit some of our assumptions and our business model. My team consists of 54 members with eight in management, and some joined quite recently. This will help the new ones in particular to better understand and contribute to our vision and mission.
Where does your personal motivation come from?
Some of it must be nature and some through nurture. Where others see challenges, I tend to flip it over and see opportunities. That’s the way my mind works. I am also a big believer in partnerships, I try not to do everything by myself. And there are plenty of collaboration opportunities in health within Africa. Hopefully we can expand myMedicines to other parts in Africa through franchising. I think in terms of ten-year plans; my current ten-year goal is to roll out myMedicines in 20 countries.
About the Women Empowerment Award
With the Women Empowerment Award, Bayer Foundation wants to empower women as key change makers and help female entrepreneurs generate social impact in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through this Award, Bayer Foundation offers a partnership which goes far beyond a one-off cash prize. The award includes 25,000 EUR in cash plus an in-kind contribution that equals 25,000 EUR in the form of a 24-week growth accelerator.
During this period, the winners will receive tailored support and training for scaling, including active investor feedback. In addition, they will be able to will tap into an extensive network of Bayer experts, who will offer coaching both in health and nutrition as well as sustainable agriculture related focus areas. Last but not least, all winners will become part of Bayer Foundation’s exceptional global alumni and partner network, which offers the opportunity to raise capital and exchange knowledge about experience gained.
By supporting female entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas, Bayer Foundation specifically recognizes and celebrates their role as game changers driving sustainability and social impact through entrepreneurial innovation.