More Africans are looking for convenience and quality when it comes to buying drugs and medicines. People don‘t want to travel too far from their homes to get the prescribed medications they need. The current trend is to visit a friendly neighborhood pharmacy where customers don‘t have to stand and wait in long queues.
Another reason for the rising trend of neighborhood drugstores and pharmacies is the growing threat of fake drugs in many African countries. Branded franchise pharmacy stores are cashing in on the situation to satisfy the rising demand for authentic and quality drugs. To avoid the risk of buying fake medicines, many consumers are more than willing to pay a higher price at a franchise drugstore where the quality of the pharmaceutical products they buy is assured.
Another growing trend in this space is online pharmacies. This new channel of drug and medicine distribution removes the need for a physical location and allows consumers to order drugs and medicines over the internet. As the mobile phone revolution spreads across Africa and internet access deepens, this will certainly be a very interesting space to watch in Africa‘s future. The Nigerian startup drugs.com.ng is one of the early risers in this area.
You can set up a proper pharmacy store with qualified staff in Africa but the location you choose may be a deciding factor in your success (see our success story below). Adding free basic medical consultation at a pharmacy will go a long way in Africa, where people have to travel fast or wait for hours to see a doctor. Serving the people in this manner will be the best marketing strategy for your African pharmacy and make it hugely profitable.
Alternatively, you can run an online drug store for a particular African market from your home. Drugs.com.ng is arguably the first online pharmacy in Africa and many more will follow this lead.
You may even consider providing basic nutritional or health advice online. This could, for example, include sexual health and childbirth education, a topic that too many do not talk about and have rare access to; if you stand out, you will win more prospects and ultimately customers. The secret to a successful online store is to serve your potential customers with valuable information and guidance for their problems, even with one-to-one consultation options. This creates trust and a psychological wish to repay, resulting in increased traffic to your online site as more people will go to you to buy their medical drugs.
Vaccines and preventive/curative remedies for tropical diseases like malaria, typhoid, Ebola etc.
Alternative and herbal medicine, which is a huge market in the West and Far East
Curative remedies for chronic illnesses such as asthma or epilepsy.
Top Countries & Policy Guidance
Offline stores will work anywhere in Africa and can be a located in large cities, townships and smaller towns. In fact, it may work better targeting poorer segments of the population as they have no access to fancy private clinics, and many will visit a pharmacy and even pay a little more for drugs nearby instead of traveling to a clinic to queue for hours, and still having to pay on top of that.
Action & Tips
The local public drug-regulating department – for example, an office such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria – should be your very first point of contact. Here you will be able to get first-hand information about drug regulations and import rules and you can find out more about your market.
If the financial considerations of setting up a pharmacy are a concern, or you are unable to get the necessary financial capital for it, consider an online drug store. Even that can be run in partnership with other professionals.
Rudzani Modau, Mangalani Pharmacy (South Africa)
During a recent interview on CNN, Rudzani said Africa‟s pharmacy business is „the next big thing.‟ His profits have been growing by an average of 50 percent over the past decade! He opened a pharmacy in Soweto, in an area where the next pharmacy shop was a full five mile drive away. His business has become very successful largely because of the valuable convenience it provides its customers.
Neighbourhood pharmacies like his have a huge advantage because customers are happy to pay a little extra to buy from his shop rather than suffer the inconvenience of long queues at overloaded state-owned hospitals.