In this interview, Pharm. Adebayo Afon, managing director, Safco Mega Solutions and vice chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Eti-Osa Zone, speaks on several pressing issues on wholesale distribution pharmacy, as well as his reasons for venturing into wholesale business in 2016, having been in community pharmacy practice since 2004. Afon, who is also the chief executive officer, Afonches Pharmacy, Lagos, which has about seven branches around Lekki and Ajah areas, also speaks on the challenges facing community pharmacists in Eti-Osa. Excerpts:
Tell us about Safco Mega Solutions?
Safco Mega Solutions is a pharmaceutical wholesale company that supplies branded generics and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals to a wide range of customers, including retail pharmacy chains, independent retail pharmacies and institutional providers, such as hospitals, health systems and other healthcare providers. The company was established last year June, so we are just few months over one year.
What prompted your decision to establish the company?
The establishment of Safco Mega Solutions was not an accident. It was deliberately masterminded by my late father, Pharm. Solomon Adegboyega Afon, who operated Safco Chemist Limited, Benin, in present day Edo State, when he was alive. So we only reignited the legacy he began in 1976.
However, Safco Chemist Limited was mainly involved in retail, wholesale and distribution of pharmaceuticals in the community it was located, and the company continued its operation after the death of my father in 1986 under my management. But, in 2004, Safco Chemist Limited was liquidated and Afonches Pharmacy was formed and it has now grown into seven branches.
However, I had always been concerned about the challenge of ineffective supply chain system, which I had traced to monopolistic pricing system, delay in delivery, product hoarding, insufficiency of products and stiff market conditions imposed on pharmaceutical retailers in Nigeria, especially those of us here on the Island. This prompted the need to expand into a wholesale line of business and, thus, Safco Mega Solutions was birthed.
Despite having been in business for just a year, there is no doubt that the company is doing well. What has been the driving philosophy of the enterprise?
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 a 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 is Safco doing differently in wholesale pharmacy?
As a company, we are committed to the profitability and viability of independent pharmacies, as well as providing support to maintain their positions in the industry. Our competitive edge cuts across efficient customers’ inventory and management, telephone-email-walk in and door-to-door order system.
We have strategically developed our portfolio of branded, generic and consumer products to suit our customers’ needs, and we also offer our customers inventory staples, new launches and hard-to-find generics. Orders made between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm (Monday to Friday) on the Island will be delivered same day within two hours while delivery of orders to mainland locations will take 24 hours.
We are just one year old, but despite that, Safco has been able to bring in some positive changes into the wholesale business and if it comes to rating, we are not doing badly as we have become a force to reckon with in the industry.
As the zonal vice-chairman of ACPN in Eti-Osa, how have you been combining ACPN activities with managing your personal business?
` To God be the glory, I have been able to comfortably combine the two, but one factor that has really helped is that we have a very hardworking chairman, in the person of Pharm. George Okon, in the zone. And with him at the helm of affairs, the zone is in safe hands. That aside, it is a thing of joy for me to serve my association in any capacity. So, whenever the opportunity presents itself, I discharge my duties diligently without it affecting my personal business. So, it’s been interesting combining the two.
What are the challenges facing community pharmacists on the Island and how can they be tackled?
Truly, there are a number of challenges facing us, and one of the most important is the challenge of quacks taking almost all the few customers we have here. The problem is that this area is not as congested as the mainland; so the activities of the quacks pose a serious threat to our business. We hope something positive can be done about it by the government as it’s killing us. Our parent body, the PSN, can also do something drastic about it, rather than waiting for the government.To solve the challenge of lack of finance, I think collaboration and partnership among pharmacists should be encouraged.
Where do you hope to see Safco Mega Solutions in the next 10 years?
By the grace of God, we hope that at the rate at which we are going, Safco will soon become the people’s first choice when it comes to wholesale distribution pharmacy in the country, and we also hope to go into manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in the near future.