The beautiful land of Africa has a vast landmass of various terrains, a large population of animals, and people of diverse ethnicity. However, it lacks healthcare infrastructure, facing a medicines shortage. Helping improve these problems is Sinhue Noronha, who pledged to bring smiles to the faces of ailing Africans by helping build self-sufficiency in manufacturing low-cost, high-quality medication in Africa by Africans for Africa. He has an experience 30 years in pharmaceuticals in African markets focused on marketing and distribution.
Sinhue is the CEO of Africure Pharmaceuticals Limited, which is committed to improving African health by creating a series of Manufacturing Assets and developing Technical Capabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa. It works towards improving the health of Africans by providing necessary materials at a practical cost.
The Journey from an Employee to an Entrepreneur
Sinhue started his career in 1979 at the grass-root le vel, promoting products to doctors in Mumbai, India. From 1980 to 1986. He moved up the rung and reached the designation of Senior Product Manager, one of the top 10 companies in India. In 1987, he was partially responsible for initiating a start-up in the pharma space as an employee and was designated as Marketing Manager. In 1989, he initiated yet another start-up in the pharma space comprising, manufacturing, and exporting formulations and was designated as Marketing Controller.
In 1991, Sinhue ventured to create his company viz. Simrone Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., where he was getting formulation contracts manufactured and exporting them to buyers in Europe, who exported them to various African countries. In 1996, he commissioned his Pharmaceutical Plant with financial assistance from 3 of the top Indian Venture Capitalists. In 2007, he received an offer from a large Indian Multinational to buy out his plant and business. This was done with a mandate to join them as CEO of the African Continent and build their business. When Sinhue joined this company, the total African Sales were in the region of US$ 5mn. and when he retired in 2017, it touched the US $65mn. At the end of his tenure, he looked after three more Continents other than Africa.
In 2017, Sinhue did a Management buyout of the African Manufacturing Assets belonging to the company he worked for. He raised the US $12mn from a clutch of 4 investors already in the pharma space in Africa and believed in his story that manufacturing was the way forward. He placed 48% of the company with them and retained 52%. His main venture, Africure Pharmaceuticals Limited, was born in April 2017 and, in a span of 5 years, achieved a turnover of US $34mn. Along the way, he offloaded a few assets to generate working capital and acquired a few assets, which helped augment the company’s turnover and profit. During this period, the company was fortunate enough to receive a sanction of US $10mn from Proparco of France, with which it created two assets in Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia. Currently, it has received US $15mn from an impact-making PE Investor to help grow the business further.
His team’s main challenges were Bureaucracy in Government Licensing, Regulatory Affairs, Operational License, and Multi-Currency and Multi-Language barriers. However, they could navigate through most of them successfully because of their talented teams on the ground.
High-Quality Essential Medication
Africure’s logo has 7 Africans throwing their hands up with joy, having been relieved of their suffering after consuming africure medication, meaning that africure was born to heal. The 7 Africans symbolize the seven plants that africure has. The company has retained a lower case ‘a’ to express the organization’s humbleness. The company’s vision is to help Africa build Self-Sufficiency in Pharmaceuticals across key Geographics. The mission is to manufacture high-quality essential medication in Africa, by Africans, for Africa.
Africure has created manufacturing assets and capabilities in the various African markets that it is in to empower local Africans with manufacturing expertise and understand the current quality management systems combined with good manufacturing practices. The company has a basket of over 80 molecules and achieved over 300 registrations in the Essential Medication Segments. It is very sensitive to EHS and has set very high standards. It has appointed a topnotch EHS Consultancy Firm to periodically audit all the manufacturing and distribution facilities and help achieve higher standards. On the QMS front, africure has a European Firm conducting periodic Audits and helping train and develop its people, helping the organization reach higher levels of quality.
The most valuable asset that africure values are its human assets. The company has been blessed with very high commitment, integrity, and hard work teams. It has also set up its own Formulation Development Lab, where it is developing formulations that are robust and adhere to the stringent specifications of the relevant Pharmacopoeias
Staying Ahead of Challenges
Concerning the Sub-Saharan African Continent, every country is fighting to be self-sufficient in the field of medication to avoid shortages and spurious medication and get the right pricing and expand the employment for the locals. Therefore, they encourage investors to set up manufacturing plants in their countries. Hence there is a wave of companies setting up manufacturing facilities, which will gain momentum in the coming years. The average per capita consumption of medication in Sub-Saharan Africa is very small. However, with increasing economic buying power, the market will expand dramatically, and perhaps in the next 15 years, Africa will produce more than 50% of its requirements.
With seven plants, africure is slightly ahead of the curve, aiming to set up a new plant every two years and evaluate inorganic opportunities. Sinhue shares, “I will continue to navigate africure through the various challenges that exist in the fragmented African Nations, and my near-term objective is to achieve two targets (in the next 15 months); a turnover of US$ 50 mn and a valuation of US$ 100 mn.” He continues, “In the next five years, africure will cross a turnover of USD 100 mn with a valuation of USD 200 mn and have a basket of approximately 10-12 plants in Africa.”
In his advice to budding entrepreneurs, Sinhue states, “The pharmaceutical sector will always be a growing sector due to the increasing buying power. Most of the underdeveloped countries will offer excellent opportunities for budding entrepreneurs, to look at setting up manufacturing facilities or looking at distribution, local technology development, creation of training and development programs etc.”