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.
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.
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 startups 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