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startup of the year


Brands We Love: Medsaf

Access to quality medication is still a big challenge for many Nigerians. The cities are awash with independent pharmacies, and medicines can be bought from hospitals and clinics. But it’s not always certain that the drugs being sold are authentic.

It’s this uncertainty that Medsaf, a healthcare startup, exists to tackle. They are working to connect healthcare centers in the country with the manufacturers of the drugs they prescribe to their patients. By boosting the supply of real medical products, they’re hoping to force down the prevalence of fake drugs.

This company is driven in part by a tragedy witnessed by its founder. Vivian Nwakah, an upwardly mobile entrepreneur based in the United States, had moved back to Nigeria for an internship. At about that time, a friend of hers died, apparently because she had taken a counterfeit malaria drug. This spurred her to action. She embarked on a mission to drive out fake medicines from the medical system.

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Then she found out what the driving force was for the counterfeit drug industry- authentic drugs were expensive; a lot of people couldn’t afford them. The counterfeiters had filled this gap with their products and were wreaking havoc across the country for personal gains.

In 2017, she founded Medsaf. The company’s focus is on creating a tidy, transparent supply chain that makes the right kind of medicines available to final vending points, at reduced prices. Nwakah and her team believe that lower prices for quality drugs and a more transparent distribution system should help beat off the challenge posed by fake medicines.

How Medsaf Works

Medsaf has a team of trained pharmacists and business professionals who handle its quality control, logistics, analytics, and business development- all of which are important for the success of its operations.

They curate reputable manufacturers and plug local pharmacies and hospitals into them. The system works like a market of sorts, with the healthcare providers seeking out and selecting the bulk medications they need to restock on from the array that’s on offer from Medsaf’s platform.

The key difference between this arrangement and purchasing from the open market is that the latter isn’t properly accounted for. A lot of the time, it’s not clear where the medicines are actually coming from. But with Medsaf, there’s a lot of transparency- enough for several major hospitals to have turned to it for their supplies.

Besides this, Medsaf also provides tech-driven logistics services and inventory management to hospitals and pharmacies. These institutions can select from any one of Medsaf’s plans, and get served as their budgets enable them.

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Funding and Recognition

So far, Medsaf has raised a total of $1.4 million from investors in three funding rounds. This has enabled it to scale its operations in Nigeria, employ more staff, and operate a sizeable warehouse for the medicines it procures.

There’s also ben coverage of its work from local and international media, including the BBC and Forbes. In 2017, it was named the most promising startup in Nigeria at Seedstars Lagos. In April 2019, it won the Seedstars Malaria Challenge, scooping up the competition’s $10,000 grand prize.

Featured image source: Startup of the Year

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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