Responding to a crisis: Distributing 700,000 testing kits in Africa

In April, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, we made our first investment under our Catalyst Strategy, into mPharma.

mPharma is a tech-enabled healthcare company developing a more-efficient supply chain for pharmaceutical products across Africa. The company’s mission is to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible to all consumers in Africa. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it has mobilised partners to help the continent respond to the crisis.

When it was clear Coronavirus was going to have a major impact on the continent, the team identified what they saw as existing bottlenecks to an effective response on a wider scale; the lack of lab equipment and testing kits.

At the time, Ghana only had two labs running tests, Nigeria had six and Zambia had just one. However, the company knew that there were dozens of private medical laboratories in these countries that could run tests if they had the equipment and components necessary.

So mPharma sought to enter partnerships with these facilities, to turn them into testing centres and rapidly increase the number of tests available. The company joined with Chinese business Sansure Biotech to procure equipment and test kits; they’ve already received 720,000 kits and 120 PCR equipment – specialised technology used in labs which enables DNA to be studied.

These test kits and equipment have been distributed to 8 African countries. To compliment this effort, Sansure has produced videos demonstrating how to use the kits and have a team working to provide real-time assistance.

As a result, 26 private medical labs in Ghana and Nigeria have been provided with the necessary equipment and supplies to test for Covid-19. mPharma has also donated 2 Portable PCR Workstations to the Ghana government to supplement their efforts to test more people.  In addition, the company has partnered with Standard Chartered Bank to create a $3 million facility that will provide loans to the medical laboratories to buy the test kits.

mPharma’s approach during Covid-19 has reached beyond its usual countries of operation. Last month UNICEF and the Red Cross Federation asked the company to support in setting up additional testing centres in fragile communities and refugee camps.

Finally, mPharma has launched a partnership with telecoms company, Airtel Nigeria, and pan-African Ecobank, to bring their customer scheme to over 50 million subscribers of Airtel in Nigeria and 600,000 customers of Ecobank in Ghana. The scheme includes discounts on medicines, price control plans for patients on chronic medications, drug delivery services and free telemedicine consultations.

While the global scramble for equipment and kits is increasing, mPharma is using its partnerships to get more supplies into the most vulnerable communities, prevent the spread of the virus on the continent and mitigate its impacts.

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