UGANDA – mPharma, a Ghanaian health startup, has acquired a major stake in Ugandan-based pharmacy, Vine Pharmacy.

The move comes two years after mPharma bought Kenyan-based Haltons Pharmacy for US$5 million, signaling the startup’s entry into the East Africa region.

mPharma acquired the 55% stake that was previously owned by private equity firm, Abraaj Group, which had folded up after issues about its administration of the US$1 billion healthcare fund it had received from investors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Abraaj had acquired Vine Pharmacy in 2013 when it was Uganda’s largest pharmacy chain

Speaking on the acquisition, Gregory Rockson, Co-Founder and CEO, mPharma, said, “Vine used to be the biggest pharmacy chain in Uganda. At its peak, it had about 36 stores spread across the country. But with Abraaj as its largest shareholder, the business had to resize once there wasn’t any more capital available for growth. We are buying out the stake that Abraaj held.”

He further revealed the intent of restoring Vine Pharmacy to the top spot it formerly held as Uganda’s biggest retail pharmacy chain.

At the time when Vine Pharmacy was in top form, it had 20 branches across Uganda when Abraaj took over operations and executed an aggressive growth plan which entailed doubling its branches by 2018.

Abraaj also expanded Vine Pharmacy’s services to include personalized patient care via home visits, wholesale business and supplying government agencies and health institutions – all this until its collapse which led to the shutdown of several of its outlets.

Founded by Gregory Rockson, Daniel Shoukimas, and James Finucane in 2013, mPharma was originally intended for managing the inventory of prescription drugs for pharmacies and suppliers alike.

It has now expanded to include retail pharmacy operations and provision of market intelligence to patients, hospitals and pharmacies.

Since its inception, the startup has raised more than US$50 million making it one of the well-funded start-ups across Africa.

Just a few weeks ago, it struck a franchise deal with Belayab Pharmaceuticals via Haltons Limited (its own subsidiary), sealing its presence in the Ethiopian market.

mPharma operates in markets such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Rwanda, and set up operations in Gabon last month after it was contracted to build a drug supply chain infrastructure.

In November 2020, it partnered with Rwandan gas station operator, Mt. Meru Group, to establish pharmacy branches within its outlets.

mPharma, in its bid to bridge the doctor-to-patient gap, recently announced the rollout of its all-inclusive telemedicine services across its network of pharmacies in Africa.

This network of pharmacies will be used to build a digital primary care service that will offer all-in-one diagnostics services.

It plans to continue its franchising model as it expands into new markets and this will help it focus more on building and refining its infrastructure for an easy sourcing and distribution system with aim of addressing the challenges that pharmaceutical markets across Africa face.

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