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How RxAll is Helping Nigerians Access Quality Medications

Founder of Nigeria’s RxAll, Adebayo Alonge, shares how his health-tech startup is using technology to revolutionize healthcare in Africa.

Tell us about your career journey so far and how you came to found RxAll. How did your BCG experience influence this journey toward entrepreneurship?

I started working on RxAll as an entrepreneurship class project while I was at Yale School of Management studying for my business degree. I was looking to explore how to scale the impact of my drug distribution company, which I’d started in 2012, to provide cross-subsidies that enabled low-income Nigerians access to expensive quality medications. I had started this company because of my experience with a low-quality medicine that almost killed me while growing up in Nigeria. I ultimately decided to set up RxAll to solve this prevalent issue of limited access to high-quality medicines and the lack of professional tools for small business pharmacies in Africa to be able to provide better quality healthcare to the vast majority of people who relied on them for healthcare. More than 90% of primary health care is purchased first at these independent pharmacies by patients before they even consider going to the hospital. In the course of completing this class project, I decided that RxAll’s mission would be to improve the quality of practice of these businesses by giving them the tools they need to assure the quality of medications, manage inventory, sell online, process insurance reimbursements, collect payments, and offer distributed telecare. As a result, our vision at RxAll is to ensure access to affordable quality health care across Africa. And we are building an all-in-one platform that powers independently run pharmacies on the continent so that they can enable access to quality healthcare for the majority of Africans who seek health care in their stores. We now power over 5,000 pharmacies across Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, enabling them to provide better quality health care to more than 2.5 million patients monthly.

While consulting at BCG in the Lagos office, where I was one of the first consultants that helped set up the office, I was tasked with helping the partners sell projects as well as be staffed on a number of projects in the change management, infrastructure, industrial, health care, and private equity practice areas. My experience starting a new office, selling project work, and presenting to very senior business leaders as well as doing the grunt work of data collection, processing, and presentation development helped me learn how to be comfortable with ambiguity and provided me with the skill set to be able to move between multiple roles—collecting raw data in open markets while being comfortable dressing up in a suit and tie to present my insights to senior government and business leaders. I remember my BCG partner once saying that the businesses in the healthcare sector in Nigeria, although operating with decent margins, were just too tiny to be taken seriously. This, in addition to other insights I uncovered in my work, made me see that there was a big opportunity to roll up these independent businesses into a consolidated platform that would provide them the structure they required to both make more of an impact as well as gain the credibility required to access more resources to scale. BCG ultimately gave me the skills, insights, and confidence to proceed to run RxAll.

How does RxAll’s drug testing platform, RxScanner™, contribute to validating the quality and authenticity of medications in the healthcare ecosystem, and what is its impact in the pharmaceutical industry?

We created the first RxScanner prototype out of our New Haven garage in 2016. This technology was ahead of its time combining AI with miniaturized spectrometry. We are now working to release the RxScanner III, a third-generation iteration. The RxScanner enables drug regulators, hospitals, and pharmacies to run post-marketing surveillance and quality checks on medicines being imported and distributed in African countries. The device is connected to our mobile app and cloud-based AI and returns back a quality assurance report in 20 seconds. This has helped hundreds of pharmacies ensure that they are only selling high-quality medicines to their patients, and this has helped them differentiate in a fragmented market, leading to improvement in their foot traffic and sales. We have also enabled country FDAs on the continent to improve their post-marketing surveillance work, thereby enabling them to see in real time where poor-quality medicines are showing up, so they can make informed decisions on how to intervene.

Please share any success stories or impactful instances where RxAll’s solutions have significantly improved healthcare outcomes or accessibility for communities in need.

During the COVID period, the online shops created via our software for thousands of pharmacies running on our platform helped millions of patients access quality medicines on-demand while staying at home. We continue to be a leading provider of access to quality medicines online in Africa, helping our pharmacies access the digital economy and enabling millions of patients find scarce medications that may not otherwise be available at their local pharmacies.

As the CEO of a health-tech startup, what strategies do you employ to stay innovative and adaptive in an ever-evolving healthcare landscape, especially in terms of technological advancements and market demands?

I am a voracious reader and stay informed on advancements in technology more broadly and on innovations in my industry and geography of focus. I have also mandated a quarterly feedback process to be conducted with our customers in order to get information from them on how to improve our offerings and to explore what alternative technologies they have been offered and may want us to co-opt to better serve them. Our customers are a major channel for innovation development for us.

What lessons and skills from your time at BCG influence the strategy within RxAll, particularly when it comes to addressing the complex challenges building a company dedicated to making health care more accessible by leveraging technological solutions?

BCG trained me to generate insights and make decisions from analyzing and structuring raw unstructured data. This is the most important skill I have used to build RxAll into a pan-African health-tech leader. Every aspect of our business is set up to collect data. We have a full-fledged data analysis team that then structures the data, analyses, and presents insights uncovered to management weekly. These insights have been used to improve products, develop new products, and unlock new revenue optimization opportunities with customers. They have also been instrumental in making decisions to exit certain product lines—for example, logistics, which helped us improve our profitability.

BCG also taught me the ability to structure communication, which has also helped RxAll gain the out-sized media attention we have garnered over the last five years while also helping us attract a coalition of investors and partners to support us to scale our work.

Do you have any personal or career lessons learned from your time at BCG that shaped the way you operate and lead your team today? What is your top professional advice that you still carry with you?

Clarify, ask, provide feedback, over-communicate—this was the mantra I learned from my partners at BCG. The major issues that businesses need their people to solve are ultimately complicated when they do not understand what their leaders want them to do. At BCG, I was trained on the importance of communicating all around until clarity is achieved and to not have any fear or shame to clarify what I do not understand. At RxAll, we have built this into our DNA. Anyone and everyone can contribute and ask questions to anyone and everyone. This has helped us achieve clarity and enabled us to run a highly productive and agile business, helping us contain costs and achieve profitability—a rarity in the often-wasteful startup space. It has also unlocked insights, innovation, and a sense of belonging among our staff, helping the team stay committed to one another and to the mission of the company.

Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly fellow BCG alumni and current BCGers contemplating the path of entrepreneurship?

The world of entrepreneurship needs more BCGers. Our capacity to think critically, to use data to unlock insights, and to practice effective communication prepares us to effectively start and lead startup businesses. The journey is not a cozy one—with many ups and downs, and resources not as abundant as at BCG—but with the personal skills that BCG helps us hone, we, more than most have, the best chance to succeed in this industry and uplift lives for millions of people around the globe. What are you passionate about and want to solve for? This is where you would want to venture out from. What are you waiting for? Come join us. Start building!