Vivian Nwakah and Temitope Awosika are the founders of Medsaf, a health tech startup connecting high quality and trusted drug manufacturers to the African medical industry. Medsaf aggregates hospitals and pharmacies and connects them with multinational and local drug manufacturers also aggregated on the platform, thereby making drug procurement safe and efficient.
The startup also negotiates fair and competitive prices on behalf of their customers, and provide a robust inventory management system that allows their clientele see real-time stock levels for their medications, receive order reminders and alerts, and access historical sales data for forecasting.
Both founders, Nwakah and Awosika have witnessed and experienced situations that made them decide setting up a platform like theirs was necessary; Nwakah lost a friend to fake malaria medication four years, and having worked in a hospital, Awosika has seen firsthand how difficult access to certain medications can be.
These issues prompted Nwakah to discuss with hospitals and pharmacies in Lagos and also reach out to drug manufacturers around the world to learn what the problem was. “I talked to hospitals and pharmacies across the Lagos area to understand what their challenges were, if any, around purchasing or procuring medication,” she told Ventureburn.
What she realized as a fundamental problem is what she termed a “disjointed chaotic supply chain issue”; while manufacturers struggle to get their medication to and across the country due to a lack of transparency and distribution, hospitals and pharmacies are working with too many wholesale distributors to get all the drugs they need.
“…This ends up making the procurement process more expensive than it ought to be. You see leakage everywhere, so there really isn’t a really standardised way to control for quality. You don’t know where that medication you purchased actually came from,” she said.
So far, the platform has been well received and even demanded. As at the end of 2017, Medsaf was generating between $15 000 and $20 000 per month with over 300 pharmacies and hospitals signed up on the platform. However, there are expansion plans underway for within and beyond Africa as buyers all over the world are seeking a more transparent and cost-effective process of procuring drugs.
However, the startup has been financed mostly out of pocket and faces a major challenge with funding. According to Nwakah, additional funding is needed to improve the platform’s tech systems and onboard more clients. Dealing with fake drugs is a major issue in developing countries like Nigeria hence having a platform like Medsaf is quite commendable.
“We are basically saying here’s an absolutely new way to distribute your medication in a way that nobody is really doing in Nigeria. We will actually help improve some of the things you struggle with, like making sure that your medication is the right price and making sure that the medication is reaching the end consumer in the correct manner,” Nwakah said.