The Silicon Review
‘We are focused on African markets, and all our plants and distribution setups are engaged primarily to provide an uninterrupted supply of essential medicines’
Africure Pharmaceuticals Limited, a pharmaceutical company, is committed to improving African health by creating a series of manufacturing assets and developing technical capabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The company was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in Mauritius. It has plants located in Botswana, Cameroon, India, Côte d’Ivoire, and Tanzania & is setting up one in Ethiopia.
Interview Excerpt: Sinhue Noronha
Q. Have you always been passionate about the pharmaceuticals industry? Tell us what inspired foundation and the success of the company?
I have been in the pharmaceutical industry since the age of 20 and started my career as a medical representative and, after that, rapidly moved through roles of product executive, product manager, Sr. product manager, marketing manager, and marketing controller.
At the age of 30, I started my business of manufacturing and exporting pharmaceutical formulations to buyers in Europe and Africa.
In 2008, I received an offer from an India-based global pharmaceutical player to buy my business and gave me a bigger canvas to play on. They gave me the mandate to grow their African business, which I did from USD 5.0Mn to USD 65Mn by 2017.
In 2017, they looked at restructuring their businesses and offered to sell me their Africa-based manufacturing business, Africure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which I bought with the help of investors who believed in my capabilities. Along with a colleague, I own 56 percent of the company.
Along the way, we have exited two plants but grew the company to USD 28Mn in four years with six plants in critical locations and a team of 450 dedicated people.
Q. How is Africure Pharmaceuticals committed to improving African health? And how is the company dedicated to creating manufacturing assets and developing technical capabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Africure Pharmaceuticals Ltd is established with a dynamic vision to provide quality and affordable healthcare to the people of Africa. We strongly believe that local manufacturing is the future of pharmaceuticals in the region. Hence, we primarily focus on setting up manufacturing facilities in Africa by upholding our motto ‘Made in Africa by Africans for Africa.’
Africure as a company is focused on creating pharmaceutical manufacturing assets and capabilities in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly in countries where zero or very little manufacturing activity exists& in strategic markets where we can cater to a certain market cluster. We believe that Africa and Africans should be self-sufficient in essential medication, and they should not suffer from shortages or substandard medicines. Our portfolio comprises over 100 molecules and 300 product registrations.
Q. Given that the Sub-Saharan Africa region is in desperate need of being self-sufficient in terms of pharmaceutical formulations, how does Africure eliminate shortages, counterfeit supply, and high-cost imports?
Africure has created local manufacturing capabilities in Cameroon, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Tanzania. In line with our vision of creating self-sufficiency in healthcare, we employ approximately 90 percent of local manpower and have taken up this challenge of local manufacturing despite being in rough terrains. This has also encouraged us to set up more facilities, with one in Ethiopia underway.
Our primary objective is to solve the persistent issues such as affordability, availability, low quality, technological dependence, reliance on imports in the region. We are focused on African markets, and all our plants and distribution setups are engaged primarily to provide an uninterrupted supply of essential medicines.
Q. Africure is a leading name in the pharmaceutical industry. How do you keep abreast with the increasing competition in this massive industry?
I beg to re-state your statement about Africure being a leading name in the pharmaceutical industry and would like to rephrase it—Africure is a dynamic startup that will grow to be a model for others to follow. We are in a specific space of manufacturing essential medication that you use for your day-to-day illnesses of pain, fever, inflammation, Infection, amoebiasis, malaria, etc.
This is a business of producing large volumes at low cost and selling the same at a very sharp price. We produce 10Mn units every day and believe that we have mastered the art of low-cost manufacturing coupled with aggressive buying and strong supply chain initiatives, which will go a long way in ensuring that we are ahead of the curve.
We have also been working on moving into higher-order medication and have recently launched a range of new dosage delivery products for cardiac, diabetes, and lipid control.
Q. How has the pharmaceutical landscape changed over the years? Tell us about the contribution of Africure towards this change?
I would want to restrict my answer only to the African sub-continent as that is our sphere of operation. Africa over the years has been dependent on imports of medication from Europe, India, and China, which has resulted in the draining of precious foreign exchange, non-creation of job opportunities, and suffering the vagaries of supply/demand. Due to this, the product pricing keeps on changing.
As stated above, Africure strongly supports the transfer of manufacturing knowledge to the local people and is also working with pharmacy colleges to provide internships to some of their graduates.
Africure is fortunate in getting Capex funding from Proparco of France, who have additionally provided a grant, with the help of which Africure has hired a renowned auditing firm to continuously audit all its facilities to be cGMP compliant and provide training not only to its onsite teams but also to other manufacturers and regulating agencies in countries where we have plants.
We also lay high emphasis on EHS compliance and have our plants ISO Certified. Besides, we have appointed a South Africa firm to audit EHS aspects of all our facilities so that we are compliant at all times.
Q. What new endeavors is your company currently undertaking?
Africure has started the construction of a manufacturing entity in Ethiopia which will be operational in 2022. And we’re in the process of expanding into Angola, Congo Brazza, and Uganda.
Key Financial Highlights:
Q. Where do you stand as a company in the current market landscape? And what are you doing to stay ahead of the cure?
Africure is currently operating in all markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Apart from generic medicines, Africure has entered the branded business segment. We have a dedicated R&D wing & a formulation development facility, focused on developing need-based medicines, which will be marketed in Africa after obtaining necessary approval and registrations. Significantly, tie-ups with well-reputed pharmaceutical companies should help us obtain market authorisation rights to sell in the region.
Q. About your future, where do you think your company will be in five years?
Africure being a healthcare-focused company is committed to expanding its manufacturing initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa, where this is needed the most, as mentioned above. We continue to look at putting up a new plant every two years and managing plants that are struggling and turn them into success stories. It will be no surprise if Africure has a basket of 10 plants in the next five years.