Pharmatech: a promising solution for improving access to sexual health in Africa

On September 13, a unique conference was held at the Pullman Hotel in Abidjan on the rise of Pharmatech in Africa: an opportunity to improve sexual and reproductive health. About sixty people (entrepreneurs, representatives of international organizations, and health authorities) gathered to :

  • Identify the challenges faced by populations in accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in Africa.
  • Discuss the unique opportunities offered by Pharmatech and the obstacles to its expansion.
  • Propose courses of action for better integration of Pharmatech in SRH.

The stakeholders’ meeting on this theme was very productive and highlighted the opportunities and obstacles to expanding Pharmatech on our continent.

During the presentations and the panel, discussions were at the heart of the issues presented by the Ivorian health authorities represented by Dr. Hervé Boni of the Order of Pharmacists and Dr. Anna-Maria Anet of the Ivorian Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority (AIRP). In addition, obstacles in delivering health products online, such as traceability and human contact, were discussed at length.

Image pharmatech conference

The meeting especially opened unique perspectives for health and particularly for SRH. Indeed, entrepreneurs presented their solutions to increase access to these essential products. Innovative startups Afiapharma (Rwanda) and Pharmap (Benin) showed that technology strengthens the pharmacist’s role, allows users to use health products in an informed way, reduces costs, and improves health. Their mobile applications show the existence of hybrid solutions between face-to-face and virtual service that will not replace human contact but, on the contrary, extend the pharmacist-user relationship, improving access, quality, and outcome of care. Entrepreneurs from Côte d’Ivoire (OPISMS and Waba) also presented their technological solutions to the problem of access to care, a massive challenge for Africa.

The pharmacist has a public service mission.” What is important to remember about this statement by Dr. Hervé Boni is that it illustrates both the need to regulate the sector and the need to be open to innovations to serve the most significant number. Another striking statement of the day was that “pharmacies can be involved in the end-to-end value chain of selfcare in sexual and reproductive health” from Naofal Ali, the panel moderator. M. Ali is a partner at Noru Capital and author of the report on Improving SRH in Africa through Pharmatech, reinforced the need to adapt regulations and to position traditional pharmacy and pharmaceutical startups as pivotal players in the SRH

This meeting highlighted the complementarity between traditional pharmacy and technological innovation and the importance of proposing concrete actions in this direction.

Image pharmatech conference

The next step is the creation of a roadmap with all stakeholders in French-speaking West Africa to amplify the adoption of Pharmatech in the sub-region and to propose ways for its implementation in a supervised and sustainable manner.

Among the many participants were the representatives of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, USAID, Africa Forward Foundation, Impact Hub Abidjan, Ivory Angels, and the Ivorian Association for Family Welfare. Also present were representatives of major pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer and Novartis represented by Ms. Naomi Dick-Kaba and Mr. Parfait Touré, respectively.

The host of the organization, Intrepid Entrepreneurs, is a US based non-government organization with headquarters in Dakar. Intrepid Entrepreneurs runs the Next Health Accelerator which recruits African female/co-led health tech star犀利士 tups innovating to increase access to sexual and reproductive health.

More information about Intrepid Entrepreneurs’ activities can be found on their website and social networks Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter

Meet The Grace Cup, first reusable menstrual products company in Kenya

Ebby Weyime is founder of The Grace Cup, Kenya’s first reusable menstrual product company. She is also certified menstrual hygiene management trainer and strong advocate for freedom of choice. In her quest to grow and expand regionally, The Grace Cup had the opportunity to participate in the first cohort of the Next Health Accelerator.

What is the story behind your startup?  

I had a problem with heavy bleeding and having to use both pads and tampons during my period. I started using a cup and loved it so much I couldn’t stop talking about it. A few months later, it became my business.

Who are your target customers, and what problem are you solving? 

Target customers are urban women for retail and NGOs for bulk purchases.

Period poverty and lack on knowledge on sexual reproductive health is what I’m solving. We now have grace pads as well which are washable pads.

The Grace Cup

What are your challenges?

The cup is a hard sell. Convincing a woman to insert a cup in her vagina is not easy but they are slowly adopting it. Funds to travel and do training is also not easy to get.

What is your vision for your startup? What does success look like?

My vision is to turn it into a safe hub where women can freely talk about sexual reproductive health without feeling ashamed. Things like contraceptives, abortions, menstruation, sex etc.

Why did you apply for NHA? Why NHA and not another accelerator?

The Next Health Accelerator program (NHA) was very specific with solving Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) matters. It was the perfect union.

What were your expectations, and how was your experience with the program so far?

When I applied for the program, my main expectation was to find new ideas to develop my business. I was fulfilled beyond my expectations, the support of the team was extraordinary and I am very grateful.

Have you met someone who inspires you since participating in NHA?

During the program I met inspiring people in both online offline sessions.

What significant progress have you made in your business since joining NHA?

I have been a one woman show for quite some time, I am on my way to make a team!

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I would emancipate the African female body.

Do you have any last comment or advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?

Do good while doing well.