Alternative medicine

What’s next for the alternative medicine sector in Africa — Quartz Africa Member Brief — Quartz

Hi Quartz Africa members,

Africa is home to living organisms that represent about a quarter of the world’s biodiversity (pdf), and a majority of the continent’s population is at least partially dependent on traditional or alternative medicine. Today, individuals and companies are engaged in R&D to produce branded herbal products from well-known native medicinal plants – a research process known as bioprospecting.

African governments and private companies began to engage in bioprospecting in the 1980s. During this period, a pharmaceutical laboratory based in Cameroon developed and obtained local clearance for Hepasor, which uses traditional medicine to treat hepatitis. In 1996, the Nigerian company Pax Herbal was founded with the launch of herbal cough syrup. And in 2006, a herbal treatment for sickle cell disease called Niprisan was developed and brought to market by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development. Today a improved formulation of Niprisan is now produced by the American pharmaceutical company Xickle.

Beyond these positives, investment in the alternative medicine space in Africa has remained relatively low, in part due to stigma by a pharmaceutical industry largely based on Western medicine. The resulting lack of government policy or regulation has kept alternative medicine largely in the informal sector. At least until now.

“Natural remedies are gaining popularity in Western countries and have a long history in China, India and elsewhere,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa. said in a speech last year. “Big pharmaceutical companies are also looking to Africa for new active ingredients. With the right partnerships and the right investments, proven African traditional medicines could find a vast global market.

The cheat sheet

💡 The Opportunity: New Policies create more opportunities for companies to take advantage of bioprospecting. The majority of African countries now have traditional medicine policies, and traditional medicine products are added to national essential drug lists. Ghana, Mali and South Africa have also introduced partial health insurance coverage for traditional medicine products.

🤔 The cHallenge: The clinical trials needed to verify drug efficacy claims can take years, be very expensive, and prove difficult to conduct in African countries that lack of sufficient infrastructure. Thus, many herbal medicines are never tested and are marketed as simple supplements.

🌍 The road map: There are some big companies in industry, which is dominated by small businesses in the informal sector. Innovative entrepreneurs are needed to champion business models that will attract funding to alternative medicine.

💰 Stakeholders : Besides small and medium-sized self-funded businesses, there are a few bigger players in the space. The American company Enygma Ventures, the South African company Distell and the venture capital company Invenfin (a branch of Remgro) have invested in the sector.

By the numbers

40: African countries that now have traditional medicine policies

70-80%: Share of the African population that depends at least partially on traditional or alternative medicine

54%: Share of South African population (27 million people) who use traditional medicine

$100 billion: Estimated value of the global complementary and alternative medicine market” in 2021

2.9 billion rand ($198 million): Estimated annual value of the traditional medicine market in South Africa

The case study

Last name: Pax Herbal Clinic and Research Laboratories (aka Paxherbals)
Based: 1996
HQ: Nigeria
Employees: 150
Founder: Adodo Anselme
Last assessment: undisclosed

herbal pax focuses on the scientific culture, identification, promotion and development of African herbal medicine. Aiming to collect all plant species in Nigeria, the company has collected and analyzed over 5,000 plants to date, from which it produces over 50 herbal products approved by the Nigerian drug regulator Nafdac (the number the highest approved for a business in Nigeria). Paxherbals has a nationwide network of over 1,000 Authorized Distribution Centers.

Paxherbals, which combines indigenous knowledge with scientific research and modern production methods, has several laboratories, a production plant, a herbarium and farms for the cultivation of medicinal plants. He established the first ever Herbal Medicine Hospital and Pharmacovigilance Centers at two locations in Lagos in 2011, and has since expanded to five hospitals in four cities.

In 2012, Paxherbals was described by the Geneva company Trans4m Center for Integral Development as “one of the largest, best organized and best equipped plant protection manufacturers and research laboratories in Africa”.

Paxherbals also works with its host community to source and manufacture raw materials and machinery: the machines it uses to produce tea bags, for example, were built by local artisans. It also collaborates with scientific, health, research and educational institutions in Nigeria and abroad, which makes the startup a good potential partner for a pharmaceutical company interested in bioprospecting in Nigeria.

In conversation with

Reverend Anselm Adodo, Founder of Paxherbals

Reverend Anselm Adodo is a Benedictine monk, ethnobotanist and medical sociologist who founded Paxherbals near a monastery in Edo State. As director, he leads the company, while Joseph Okogun, professor of phytochemistry and organic chemistry, is head of research and development. Here are some selected quotes from our conversation with Adodo:

🤔 If self-funded Paxherbal is open for investment:
“We are open to such an investment as long as it is based on our principle of ‘communitarianismwhich simply states that the primary driver of a business enterprise should be the good of the local community, community wealth and peace in the community, and not just material profit for the investors.

⚕️ On the potential for collaboration:
“What Paxherbals needs are reliable investment agents to help it showcase its achievements and capabilities, and attract the necessary funding. In my opinion, a partnership between African health tech startups and Paxherbals is a sure way to grow the alternative medicine industry, with the assurance that Paxherbals will identify and support other serious herbal medicine industries to grow. .

📈 On the opportunities of alternative medicine in Africa:
“The value chain is breathtaking: agricultural production/cultivation of medicinal plants and flora, such as bitter leaf, avocado pears, tree roots and barks, ginger. Turmeric, lemongrass, mushroom cultivation, honey production, snail farming, agrology, food processing, juice production, herbal teas, polymer technology, modern packaging. In my view, the alternative medicine value chain is the key to tackling the threat of unemployment and poverty in Africa.

Alternative Medicine Deals at 👀

African Liquor Group Distill and Invenfina seed venture capital fund, each acquired a 20% stake in RethinkReleaf Pharmaceuticals’ cannabis wellness brand, in January 2021.

In February 2022, Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman was reported to be in the process of acquiring the European subsidiaries of the South African manufacturer of health products Health Ascendisincluding Sun Wave Pharma, a distributor of alternative medicine products. Health Ascendis acquired the Romanian company for 16.35 million euros ($18.4 million) in 2017.

Healthy, a South African health and wellness company, secured 4 million rand (280,000 USD) in seed investment of a venture capital company Enygma Ventures in July 2020, after 20 years of growth without external financing.

More Quartz

🩸 Nigerian scientists have patented a plant-based sickle cell medicine

💊 The Untold Story of Nigeria’s First Modern Drug

🌿 Business is starting to trump morality in Africa’s cannabis industry

🤔 African countries are pushing “traditional” remedies against covid-19

😷 Covid-19 vaccines face a lack of confidence in traditional African remedies

🍵 South Africa’s beloved Rooibos tea gets EU certification

🎵 This brief was made by listening to “Itendo(Edo proverbs) from Fabomo (Nigeria)

Have a very motivated weekend,

— Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu, Quartz Africa contributor in Abuja

One 🌿 thing

While Europe held the largest share of the global complementary and alternative medicine market in 2020, at 33.4%, the Middle East and Africa The region is expected to grow by 24.8% by 2028.