Mmekidmfon Umanah…Building a healthcare bridge between Europe and West Africa
By Yemisi Suleiman
With Africa’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse, Nigerian born UK based Mmekidmfon Umanah, is on a mission to strengthen the West African frontline and primary healthcare system via his project company; Aimcare Health Limited a product sourcing company that is building the healthcare bridge between Europe and West Africa by connecting European health startups to the unique market opportunities in West Africa.
A Chevening alumnus with an MSc in International Development from the University of Birmingham, with an incoming PhD in Business and Management candidate at the King’s College London, Mmekidmfon also serves as the Executive Director of WaterEase Organization, a nonprofit using resource mobilisation and advocacy to help underserved communities have better access to clean water in Nigeria.
So far, through his advocacy work, four communities in have been provided with clean water, with a community in Bauchi as the latest beneficiary.
Mmekidmfon shares his motivating factor and overall mission for his work.
What is the motive behind the creation of Aimcare? What inspired it?
The truth is that the African healthcare system is simply broken, and this cost me my mother’s life in 2013. For 80% of people in Africa, their community pharmacy and patent medicine stores are the frontlines of their health system and, yet they routinely stock out of essential medicines, incur significant losses to expiry, and struggle with substandard and falsified drugs and medical consumables. Where immunizations, contraceptives, anti-infectives, essential devices, and diagnostics, or chronic-care at the local clinic or pharmacy are expired, too expensive, or simply unavailable, providers, patients, and whole communities pay the price; we are currently working to prevent these. . Hence, I am committed to tackling this issue through Aimcare, working our way up from just inventory access and financing to infrastructure financing.
We are ensuring that consumers have access to the best and most innovative products in the market regardless of their location or economic status.
And how do you go about achieving your goal?
Aimcare Health Limited’s mission is to strengthen the West African frontline and primary healthcare system by providing pharmacies, primary healthcare centres, patent medicine stores and hospitals with the most innovative, user-friendly, and affordable products in the global market. We are currently doing this by connecting global health start-ups to unique and high-potential opportunities on the African continent. We focus on non-cliché opportunities in the healthcare ecosystem from piloting disruptive technology to marketing innovative consumer products and wearables. By leveraging on our unique partnership channels, we have built access to 1000 pharmacies, 200 patient medicine stores and 50 clinics.
Dot Glasses is one of the foreign start-ups we are working with. We are their sole partners in Nigeria and we are enabling the facilities as listed above to get access to this affordable yet quality vision care solution.
How is Aimcare financed?
Aimcare is a for-profit startup and primarily we make money from our services. For a while, people used to erroneously think we are a non-profit, and possibly this came from the fact that we are involved with a lot of impact projects. For instance, we have a project that involves distributing birth kits to pregnant women in rural communities through the traditional birth attendant homes and distributing hygiene kits to boarding secondary schools. The reality though is that these projects are now part of our non-profit vehicle’s (Waterease) value proposition and no more Aimcare directly.
At what point did the Dot Glasses project come in and what informed it?
Aimcare currently has an exclusive partnership with a Czech based company called DOT Glasses, tell us about it?
DOT Glasses is a Czech-based vision Care Company that has developed proprietary on-spot testing that allows us to test, diagnose and provide our customised prescription lenses on the spot all in less than 4 minutes for a total cost of $4. DOT Glasses is the first sustainable solution to the world’s vision problem. With their patented, snap-together, adjustable frames designed by a subsidiary of Mercedes Benz; Impact and scratch-resistant lenses; simple proprietary vision testing tools; and extraordinarily robust 100% injection-molded ABS plastic, they ensure the end-user has access to quality prescription lenses at an ultra-affordable rate.
Tell us your achievement with DOT glasses project in Nigeria?
From inception to-date we have sold about six thousand five-hundred DOT glasses and partnered with some non-commercial partners like Akwa Ibom State government and the Ini Ememobong Foundation to distribute 500 for free. We have in the process provided eye tests for one thousand people. We’ve partnered with the government and private companies to distribute 7000 pairs of these glasses since March this year
From all you have done, your projects seem to focus more on the northern part of Nigeria, why is that so and when are you extending to other parts of the country?
We do have some presence in the North. We have partners in Kebbi, Zaria and Abuja. Also, A few months ago, Aimcare’s non-profit vehicle; Waterease Organisation, provided clean water to the good people of Dasham Community in Bauchi State by building them a borehole. That project will provide water to 700 people in and around that community. However, our biggest business comes from Lagos. Most of our commercial partners are in Lagos.
What is your future projection for Aimcare?
As far as future projections go, our midterm goal is to disrupt the industry by helping primary healthcare facilities avoid stock outs and have uninterrupted access to inventory. We want to be able to improve access to medicines and medical products by providing innovative financing and inventory management solutions to hospitals, pharmacies and patients.
Our long term goal is to be able to facilitate healthcare investment to the continent by financing infrastructure.
You are gradually bridging the gap in the healthcare sector, using Aimcare in providing opportunities, what have been the challenges you have encountered so far?
The challenges we are facing are perhaps not significantly different from the challenges many businesses in Nigeria are facing. For instance, our business is very reliant on FX and a few months ago we were doing business at N400 to $1. Currently we are doing business at N510 to $1. This makes things very difficult especially for companies like us aiming to ensure the prices of our products are super affordable.
What was growing up like for you and what events shaped you into the person you are today?
Growing was fun. We did not have a lot, but my parents ensured I got the best education I could possibly have gotten. I attended private schools at both nursery and primary and secondary school levels. I remember that my secondary school was quite pricey at the time, and it makes me wonder how my parents were able to afford, as I look back in retrospect.
I generally had a slow start in life; I could not read a timepiece until I was about 10, 11 years old. But as an only child, my mother’s support was relentless. She used to call me Doctor and always wanted me to be a Doctor. I hope as she looks down from heaven, she is proud that I am on my way to getting a Doctorate and I’ll truly be called a Doctor even though it is not medical. But even importantly, I hope she is even more proud that I am running a successful healthcare start-up that is tackling some of the things that cost her life.