SAVE MEDICINE, SAVE LIVES

The secret is out about the potential impact and scalability of Adama Kane’s business, Jokko$anté. Lives saved. Money saved. Unused medicine saved. The entrepreneur from Senegal spent years hurdling barriers to bring the medical sharing program to the people who benefit the most. His perseverance is paying off, in profits, but most importantly with patients with the most need. 

Adama won $150,000 in the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award for Jokko$anté, his medicine sharing platform. This funding, coupled with continued mentoring for one year enabled Adama to continue on his social entrepreneurship journey. 

From 500 to 2,000 Patients Reached with Medicine 

When Adama applied for the Award in 2015, Jokko$anté was reaching a modest 500 patients. After months of mentoring and months of laboring to effectively implement the program, Jokko$anté now reaches nearly 2,000 patients. And he has increased to nine full time employees. 

The process is simple. Adama says, “When a Jokko$anté member makes a deposit of medicines with a 5,000 franc value, he gains 5,000 points. He accumulates points by depositing medicines and these points will be used in the future when he/she is ill and has a prescription. He will use his points to get the prescribed medicines.” In much of Africa, prescription medicine is distributed in individual pop out pockets. Therefore, unused medicine is not subject to contamination or tampering. And, partnerships with pharmacies and hospitals reduce instances of forged scripts and contaminated medicines. 

Jokko$anté operates on a secure web and mobile computing application. Medicines are turned in, companies pay Jokko$anté to enhance their Corporate Social Responsibility goals, and users acquire medicines with their accrued points. 

The community medicine sharing application eases the spending burden on families in Senegal, where Adama says “as much as 73% of family health money” is spent on buying medicine. And, it’s a sad reality that across Africa and the world, pharmaceutical prices continue to rise. Jokko$anté eases this financial burden on families and discourages throwing away valuable medicine. 

 

Giving and Receiving Health 

Jokko$anté in the local Senegalese dialect means “giving and receiving health.” For those with means, or simply with extra medicine, a trade in for points means that someone else can access those medicines much more easily. And, lives can even be saved. 

Adama shares the story of him and his wife. They were 

struck by the number of unopened, extra medicine in their cupboards. Jokko$anté was borne out of their idea to not throw these valuable medicines away. Were there others who could use these unopened medicines? 

The Jokko$anté app prevents waste, but also the purchase of fake drugs by patients. According to experts, in Sub- Saharan Africa, one in three drugs is counterfeit. A 2016 BBC article states that “More than 120,000 people a year die in Africa as a result of fake anti-malarial drugs alone, says the World Health Organization, either because the drugs were substandard or simply contained no active ingredients at all.” Cost prohibitive medicines perpetuate this reality for so many, as many patients simply cannot afford the real medicine.1 

Adama laments that, “These fake drugs are mostly bought by the most vulnerable layers of the population. Those who do not have the means, since counterfeits are sold at discount prices, or lower. Now, we allow these layers to have better access to medicines. We will certainly help fight against these fake medicines.” 

The platform for giving and receiving is growing. Adama says, “In 2015, we only had one pharmacy and now we have 6 pharmacies.” Part of Adama’s Award money was spent on acquiring legal documents and paperwork to implement the program. The struggles almost lead Adama to throw his hands up in the air and pursue something simpler. Early on during Adama’s Award journey, one mentor mentioned “The pharmaceutical pharmacies sector will likely consider you as a threat,” and encouraged Adama to do his best to mitigate those measures. This took time. Time well spent though, as Adama is now in business. 

Adama says that, “In the beginning, there were many problems with the pharmacies because people were thinking that we were trying to steal their business. Now we have partnerships with the pharmacy bodies and we are planning a meeting with all of the pharmacists in Senegal so that they can be more involved in our business.” 

“…I would have stopped in 2016.” 

Early in the idea stage, Jokko$anté nearly collapsed under its own weight. Adama does not mince words when discussing the impact of Award mentoring and funding. He says, “If it wasn’t for the Award, I would have stopped in 2016.” Implementing a scalable service required enormous ground work for Adama. 

The modest, soft-spoken entrepreneur from Senegal says, “For me, the progress is not very great, but the point is that our project is a very sensitive one. People ask is it safe? So, we grow slowly. We stay in two cities to do a pilot so that people will know that yes, it’s possible, so that there is no risk and prove that it can be done. I think we have achieved this goal, so in 2018, there will be many changes.” 

And, getting the idea across to investors required Adama to dramatically focus his pitch. Adama says that “Mentoring helped me to be precise when I am presenting Jokko$anté.” He remembers how his early documents for pitching the business included 40 pages of information. Now, he says, “I can present Jokko$anté in five slides! We have learned how to be accurate and how to go right to the point right.” 

From One Community to Four Countries 

Jokko$anté provides profound solutions for many in Africa, and Adama plans to scale up. Mentors on his Award Journey in 2015 were also optimistic. One said, “Your project addresses a major problem in Africa and in all emerging countries. After the pilot phase, it would be pertinent not to limit it to countries bordering on Senegal and to target at least the entire continent.” 

More than two years after winning the Award, Adama says, “We have now around four countries that want our solution to be implemented. They are willing to pay if we accept to implement our solution in their country.” Publicity has followed as Adama is routinely invited to international health events to provide his expertise and insight on how to improve Africa’s health sector. 

Besides publicity, Adama is also starting to see profit. He struggled to make the idea profitable, and not rely exclusively on donations, which donors were happy to hand out. New contracts with pharmacies and other institutions buying his platform have now turned profit. In 2015, Jokko$anté earned a $20,000 profit. Now, they are approaching the $80,000 mark. 

The future is bright, both for Jokko$anté and for patients benefitting from the service.