Cork businessman leads $5m investment in Kenyan firm

MyDawa aims to supply generic medicines in Kenya at discounts of up to 40 per cent


Cork businessman Neil O’Leary is leading a $5 million investment in a new technology company that aims to supply medicines in Kenya at discounts of up to 40 per cent.

Called MyDawa, which translated from Swahili it means MyMedicine, the company is manufacturing generic drugs that it can then supply to registered customers via a mobile phone app, with the medicines delivered to an agreed pharmacy.

The app was launched in March and had 10,000 downloads in its first month, a figure that has since doubled.

MyDawa manufactures off-patent medicines that can be prescribed by doctors to their patients. They can then take a photograph of the prescription using an app.

This encrypted information is then sent to MyDawa, which fulfils the order and sends it to a pharmacy chosen by the consumer. The pharmacy is paid a commission per delivery.

More than 150 pharmacies in Kenya have so far signed up and the company is in discussions with other “healthcare solutions providers”.

Mobile wallet apps

Mr O’Leary said Kenya was chosen as the country was already active with mobile wallet applications. “Who knew?,” he said. “We’ve been looking at this for about two years and we think there’s a huge opportunity here.”

Mr O’Leary believes there’s an addressable market of €1.5 billion with annual growth estimated at 14 per cent. His plan is to undercut the established pharma brands who are operating in Kenya.

Over time, he believes the service could be rolled out to other parts of East Africa.

MyDawa currently employs 30 staff directly, and is making about 20 drugs. Its products have been licensed for use at point of sale in Kenya and the drug dossiers compiled to obtain the necessary approvals in the country can be used in other jurisdictions, Mr O’Leary said.

The brand is controlled by Ion Kenya, an offshoot of Ion Equity, which Mr O’Leary co-founded some years ago. It is registered in Malta.

Mr O’Leary recently spoke about MyDawa at a World Bank conference in Barcelona, which he said sparked interest from a number of potential investors. He said the group was interested in partnering with major investors to “accelerate growth, create significant value and improve patient outcomes”.

While the business is in the early stages of development, Mr O’Leary said it had the potential to become “highly profitable”, while also yielding a social dividend for patients in Kenya and potentially other parts of Africa.

Mr O’Leary is chairman and chief executive of the group. The executive team also includes Tony Wood, who heads the business in Kenya and is a former chief executive of Alcatel Lucent East Africa, and Dr James Mwanzia, who is the chief medical officer having formerly been director of medical services in Kenya.

To help launch the product, MyDawa has aired a TV commercial and run other advertising to promote the new brand.

At Ion Equity, Mr O’Leary was behind a number of major investments in Ireland and elsewhere, including the creation of Topaz, which is now the country’s biggest service station operator.