If you know or have met my guest this month you are definitely aware that ‘my price’ is about to go up! Lol. However, if you do not know her before, I think you owe me a chilled bottle of fruit juice for bringing this wave-making figure in the Healthcare Industry to your screen.

Let me head straight into introductions;

Our special guest on this month’s feature post came highly recommended by Adeola Adewusi and coincidentally my last month’s guest -Pharm. Olufunto Olude also mentioned her name in the course of her interview. Small world, right? It is exciting to meet Health Practitioners talk business or other topics and not just needles and patients. Lol. This interview invoked deep thoughts in me. It’s quite a lengthy piece but stick to the end to find out why.

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  • My name is Opeyemi ADETUNJI, I am a pharmacist with over eight years post-graduation experience but writing/blogging has always been what I engage in on the side. I recently revamped my blog www.thepenwriters.com and I introduced a feature column where I celebrate people. You came highly recommended and as someone who is a goal getter, I decided to reach out to you on LinkedIn. So, can we meet you ma?

Pharm Abimbola: My name is Abimbola Adebakin, I am a Pharmacist and Certified Performance Technologist (CPT). I have a background in Pharmacy as well as business management consulting. I have worked in a number of places including consulting at Accenture, FITC and working as the Chief Operating Officer at the Tony Elemelu Foundation before my most recent role as CEO Advantage Health Africa. I am married with a son.

  • I can see that you graduated from Pharmacy School in the mid 1990s and that is over twenty years ago, how has the journey been so far and your rise in the career ladder?

Pharm Abimbola: I graduated in 1996 from the University of Lagos, obtained my B. Pharm. and went through the internship and National Youth Service. I did some sales and marketing when I started my full-time role but ultimately felt I needed more business knowledge, so I went for an MBA at the University of Lagos and then worked in Accenture. My career has grown over the years as expected, I am very value driven and solution oriented. I also have the grace to face challenges and see them to a logical conclusion. My career in Accenture was a great boost or catalyst because it helped to build certain structures in me and helped me think critically. Following my work at Accenture, I came back into Pharmacy to find solutions to what I saw at the community level (such as large under-served communities). A few years later, I went back into management consulting, did some work with the Ministry of Education, then under Dr. Ezekwesili,  to support her drive for education sector revamp. It was a significant eye opener for me. I am curious about any sector with a focus on finding solutions to problem areas. Management consulting really never leaves one’s system. I did more consulting at FITC for eight years before going into entrepreneurship development and operations at TEF, and I think this opened my eyes to Africa as a green field. Since healthcare is my niche, I thought to come back to set up Advantage Health Africa to proffer solutions to access, affordability and quality of healthcare.

  • I also saw that you did a Masters in Business Administration, what was the motivation ma and how can you say it has helped so far in your career ma?

Pharm Abimbola: As a Pharmacist, I gained work experience across a drug research lab, hospital and sales and saw a gap in (what I later knew to be) organisational behaviour. I felt there were so many small companies in pharmacy but the banking sector had large organisations – yet, it was not that Pharmacy space lacked intellectuals!; So, I was not quite satisfied with the terrain. Then, when I took up the MBA course, I loved and absorbed strategy, organisational behaviour and everything that had to do with building large structures and I thought, pharmacies do not have be small and irrelevant, they can actually be big entities. With that foundation, it makes one think bigger than the next person/colleague working in the same place. Both of you can be side by side but your thoughts are way different and bigger. I believe the impact of my MBA is that it shaped me to look for opportunities and connections in ways that other people may not think of.

  • The Tony Elumelu Foundation position, it particularly spiked my interest, what led to it and how was the experience ma?

Pharm Abimbola: My role there was to operationalize an important and pan-African growth strategy that had been set up to help catalyze entrepreneurship across Africa. I would say one thing that Mr Elumelu did that he hasn’t been given sufficient credit for is how he made entrepreneurship more acceptable across the world. Although he has received a number of awards but what I admired the most was the ability to bring his charisma and personality to back such an unstructured, poorly framed concept of entrepreneurship and put clear credibility around it. Basically, what I did was to simply help to put in place systems and processes to carry the vision further and help to implement the strategy to help democratize luck for thousands of entrepreneurs across Africa. I think it is a very lofty thing to be involved in.  I had been recommended to the job by a former colleague, and I am grateful for the opportunity.  It expanded me a lot and it was a worthwhile career experience. I see more huge opportunities everywhere and get more and more confident that Africans will provide the solutions to African problems.

  • The Birth of Advantage Health Africa what was the defining moment? What is the progress so far and challenges in the course of execution/expansion?

Pharm Abimbola: I had tried or attempted Advantage Health in 2010 where I saw an opportunity for group purchasing but I shyed away and let the opportunity go because I thought I did not have the capital. I actually did a survey of about 500 institutions with the conclusion that my solution was needed.  When I came back into the Health sector in 2017, the opportunity was still staring at me and I thought why not me? Why must I back off?

So, I started with sharing the idea of aggregation to pharmacy owners.  Several bought into our first initiative, which was to create an online platform to take orders and create an access to market for these pharmacies. That’s how we launched it formally on October 1, 2017 as my-medicines.com.  Working together in this manner showed promise, and was beginning to work, so I reached out and formed an alliance with the Association of Community Pharmacies of Nigeria (ACPN) and we were able to attract almost a thousand of pharmacies in 33 states to a network, something new in our sector.  We brought some opportunities in access to skills/ knowledge, new markets and resources.  At this nascent stage, we were wondering that we can do to bring more value to pharmacies but the relationship with ACPN fell through. So, we moved on to aggregate pharmacies to a chain, and we set up the franchise chain called myPharmacy earlier this year (just before the pandemic broke out). We were able to see clearly that we can create opportunities for business management and leadership, help to improve quality and standards, bring in big partners to create new markets and access to resources, and then ultimately, find resources, including finance, to support the pharmacies. Summarily, that is what Advantage Health Africa does and we can only continue to do more. We see so many areas for growth in healthcare in Africa.  

  • So ma, what can you say you represent as a brand?

Pharm Abimbola: Advantage Health Africa represents the good in collaboration. We are careful not to upturn what we found but we are very happy to be the first to champion things and disrupt the market out of a heart to provide solutions. We think in a certain way – especially embracing the view of “How else?,What else?, Who else?, and When else?” when developing strategies.  Maybe that’s the resilience in us coming through.  My team surprise me when they bring up ideas and walk their talk – they are doers not just talkers. As a brand, we are keen to spread across Africa but we can not do that alone, so we are open to franchise.

  • Aside business and career, what other activities do you engage in ma?

Pharma Abimbola: I doubt that I engage in other things as such and my family is my priority but sometimes, I go to the cinema or I listen to music.

  • How do you balance everything with family life, and do you think women can attain to any length they desire?

Pharma Abimbola: I am quite fortunate. I believe a human being can attain everything desired, there should not be an emphasis on gender when talking about achievement. People can over perform or under-perform so it is not actually about the gender. You see, achievement is about seeing obstacles for what they are, and surmounting them.  Sometimes, a woman may not have as much access as her male contemporary, but once she finds a way around it, she can achieve her goals.

  • Great!. So, can you describe yourself in one word ma?

Pharma Abimbola: Can-do

  • Oh wow! So, what advice would you give to your younger self

Pharma Abimbola: I will be more confident and give myself a chance to be more adventurous. BE more accepting of myself – my faults/limitations and strengths, and know that even when I make mistakes, I am still fine.

Thank you so much ma for this opportunity to meet you. We really do appreciate it.

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You can click on the various links in the article to check out what the businesses are about and snoop around for her social media handles too. Cheers!

P.S: If you missed our last story and YouTube content, find it here and here.