mPharma, a Ghanaian health tech startup, is establishing a network of community pharmacies across Africa with the goal of becoming the region’s primary healthcare provider for millions of people.
MPharma intends to expand its community (Mutti) pharmacies across eight African markets in order to serve as patients’ first point of contact. Mutti pharmacies are essentially mini-hospitals that provide a variety of services, including medical consultation, diagnostic, and telehealth services. All of this while improving access to and affordability of high-quality medications.
After raising $35 million in a Series D round, the startup has set out to activate more Mutti pharmacies in order to broaden its reach and build out its tech-infrastructure as it prepares for the next phase of growth.
According to mPharma co-founder and CEO Gregory Rockson, the new funding will be used to build the startup’s data infrastructure, triple its talent pool over the next three years, and support expansion plans in existing and new markets. It is also developing a pharmaceutical e-commerce platform.
“We’re hiring over 100 engineers to build all of our technology in-house, including a massive data infrastructure.” “We’re also investing in other skilled talent, such as doctors and nurses, who are critical to the work we do,” .
“Bloom, our pharmacy management software,” he says, “will enable us to build structured population health data sets that will allow Mutti pharmacies to provide better care pathways to the communities they serve.”
The financing includes $30 million in equity and $5 million in debt from Citibank, for a total of $65 million raised by mPharma.
JAM Fund, a venture capital firm founded by Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen; Unbound, a growth investment firm founded by Shravin Mittal, the managing director of Bharti Global Limited (Bharti family investment arm); and Lux Capital, a New York-based VC firm investing in science and technology ventures (this is the firm’s first investment in Africa), are among those who participated in the round. Northstar, Social Capital, Novastar, and TO Ventures are among the other investors.
Rockson, Daniel Shoukimas, and James Finucane founded MPharma in 2013 to manage prescription drug inventory for pharmacies and their suppliers, retail pharmacy operations, and to provide market intelligence to hospitals, pharmacies, and patients.
In October of last year, the startup expanded its portfolio to include telehealth services, capitalizing on the telemedicine boom that followed the COVID pandemic. Rockson told TechCrunch in October last year that the startup hoped to have 100 virtual centers up and running by the end of the six-month period. The number of virtual centers is expected to increase further in tandem with mPharma’s plan to expand its community pharmacies by tenfold over the next three years, from the current 200 centers.
Patients in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, where mPharma is present, can now use the virtual services. MPharma is also present in Gabon, where it has a government contract to build a drug supply chain infrastructure.
Startups such as mPharma are bridging gaps in healthcare provision by bringing vital services closer to communities through channels such as pharmacies and community health checks, among others.
According to World Health Organization data, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have an average of 0.23 doctors per 10,000 people, compared to the best ratio of 84.2 doctors in some of the most developed countries.
Aside from a low doctor-to-patient ratio, healthcare infrastructure is also severely underdeveloped.
“COVID demonstrated that the best form of care is local, in the community, and pharmacies are the closest thing in communities.” “We believe that the pharmacy of the future, which is what we are creating, will be based on longitudinal care rather than episodic care,” Rockson said.
“In Africa, we are transforming community pharmacies into the foundation of a modern health system.” We will have a Mutti pharmacy in every community on the continent, guarantee the availability and safety of medicines in each community, and use the physical infrastructure of Mutti pharmacies to expand Mutti Doctor (the telemedicine service), creating the continent’s largest network of doctor offices and diagnostic centers.”
To provide comprehensive services, mPharma recently launched an ecommerce platform — the Mutti Online Pharmacy — that allows its members to shop for pharmaceutical products. They are initially only dispensing over-the-counter medication in Ghana, but have plans to expand to include prescription drugs in the near future. MPharma’s Mutti Online Pharmacy is now one of a few exclusively digital pharmacies with operations in Africa, along with Kenya’s MyDawa.
MPharma has also embarked on diversification, partnership, and expansion strategies in recent months in order to grow the company. It recently acquired a 55% stake in Uganda’s Vine Pharmacy, which was previously owned by the Abraaj Group. It also entered Ethiopia in March of last year through its subsidiary, Haltons, by signing a franchise agreement with Belayab Pharmaceuticals.
MPharma has the expertise of well-experienced pharmaceutical professionals on its board, including Helena Foulkes, former president of CVS, the largest pharmacy retail chain in the United States, and Daniel Vasella, ex-CEO and chairman of Novartis; both are members of the board. Other investors in the startup include the UK’s development arm, CDC Group, Breyer Capital, and Golden Palm Investments.