Pharm. Adebayo Afon is the managing director and chief executive officer of Safco Mega Solutions Nigeria Limited, a pharmaceutical wholesale company that supplies branded generics and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals to a wide range of customers. He is also the owner of Afonchies Pharmacy Limited, a chain pharmacy outlet with 15 branches around the Lekki and Ajah areas of Lagos State. In this interview with Pharmanews, he discusses several issues surrounding pharmaceutical wholesaling and distribution in Nigeria – highlighting the prospects and challenges, as well as offering insights on how government, regulators, and pharmacists themselves can improve the status quo: Excerpts:
How long has Safco been in business in Nigeria and how would you describe your performance so far?
Safco Mega Solutions is a pharmaceutical wholesale and logistics company, duly licensed and certified by the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN). Safco supplies quality branded generics, over-the-counter and ethical pharmaceutical products to a wide range of customers. We also supply and install a comprehensive range of medical equipment and devices, medical waste disposal, and medical logistics. These include but not restricted to retail pharmacy chains, independent retail pharmacies, and institutional providers, such as hospitals, health systems, and other healthcare providers.
The establishment of Safco Mega Solutions was not an accident. It was deliberately masterminded by my late father, Pharm. Solomon Adegboyega Afon, who founded Safco Chemist Limited, Benin, in present-day Edo State, when he was alive. So we only reignited the legacy he began in 1976.
Safco Chemist Limited was mainly involved in retail, wholesale, and distribution of pharmaceuticals in the community in which it was located. The company continued its operation after my father’s death in 1986, under my management. However, Safco Mega Solutions was birthed in April 2016, a date which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the death of my father and founder of the defunct Safco Chemist. Today, Safco has become a force to reckon with in wholesale distribution pharmacy in Nigeria.
What is the core value you are adding to the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry?
Safco has partners across the globe and can source and deliver goods in a timely manner and at affordable prices. Safco has a fleet of delivery vans that can transport goods to various locations across the country. Safco also has a sister retail pharmacy chain, Afonchies Pharmaceuticals, and can get to the direct customer in affordable ways. In achieving this, we ensure that all our partners meet agreed standards and are consistent with their service delivery, while ensuring that our customers/clients are duly satisfied.
Safco Mega Solutions serves as a registered distributor to most of the leading pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, and multinationals in West Africa and some selected suppliers in the European Union (EU).
What is the philosophy driving you at Safco?
At Safco, our vision is to modernise the pharmaceutical distribution sector of the medical industry in Nigeria and West Africa. We are dedicated to developing sustainable and long-term business solutions as we offer our clients a completely integrated supply chain management process. Ultimately, we are dedicated to providing and delivering profitable business solutions within the Nigerian/West African pharmaceutical sector.
Our mission is to provide comprehensive wholesale pharmacy solutions that support healthcare, improve all-around productivity and promote cost-efficiency for our clients and the industry
What can you say is the biggest challenge facing pharmaceutical wholesaling and distribution in Nigeria?
As of today, chaotic drug distribution is the greatest challenge facing pharmaceutical wholesaling and distribution in Nigeria, as the unending chaotic drug distribution has promoted the circulation of fake, adulterated products, and treatment failures among others.
There is need for a change in the practice of wholesaling and distribution, as positioned in the National Drug Distribution Guidelines. This is critical to ensuring an effective and efficient delivery between the manufacturer and patient.
What are your long and short-term plans in Safco? Is there a plan to launch a new product this year?
As part of our resolve to ensure the delivery of seamless and accessible healthcare to more and more people, we are establishing retail pharmacies through our sister pharmacy, Afonchies Pharmacy, a retail pharmacy chain of 15 outlets. This is helping us to actualise our basic healthcare goals for all people.
Our short, medium and long-term goals are not far-fetched as they have become our driving force. Talking about launching a new product, we have recently registered five products with NAFDAC, while our ActiKid Multivitamin range is doing well in the market. Therefore, we are working towards continuous and never-ending improvement (CAN I).
What do you think the Nigerian government can do to help sanitise the drug distribution system?
The National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) launched in February 2013, by the Federal Government, should be implemented without further delay, because the holistic implementation of the NDDG will solve the long-standing problem of chaotic drug distribution in Nigeria.
We all know that medicines are on the exclusive list; so the implementation of this document lies on the presidency, not on any of the agencies. It will be appreciated if the Federal Government will encourage all stakeholders to see that the NDDG is implemented to the letter.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your operations?
COVID outbreak was a blessing in disguise to us, as we maximised the opportunity of the “new normal” to learn new things and break new grounds. As a company, we put God first in whatever we do, and, most importantly, our philosophy has been fashioned towards sheer determination in whatever we do and ensuring that we make headway, no matter the challenges. We think of how to expand our business every day and how to satisfy our customers better. We came in because we wanted to attend to people’s needs and we are doing it to the best of our knowledge and ability. Our vision is to breathe life into the pharmaceutical distribution system in Nigeria, and we are dedicated to developing long-term business solutions.
What more should we be expecting from your company in terms of ideas and innovations?
We believe that our unique position gives us a significant competitive edge but we are not prepared to rest on our laurels, as the ultimate aim of any wholesaler is that its goods get to the final consumer in a timely fashion and at the right price. At Safco, we are unique in the sense that we can distribute directly to consumers through our own retail outlets, Afonchies Pharmacy. This makes it possible for Safco to meet up sales targets and speed up slow-moving products.
Our sister company, Afonchies Pharmaceuticals, has several retail outlets in the Lekki/Ajah axis of Lagos State; thus we are closer to our customers more than any of our competitors.
At Safco Mega Solutions, our service-centric values challenge us to create opportunities to invest in our customers, suppliers, and community at large. We do not only make verbal promises, our values are actions. We are committed to demonstrating our corporate citizenship through initiatives that will protect our environment, benefit our business associates and engage society.