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3 Ghanaian innovators win Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship

BY: Isaac Yeboah
Gregory Rockson, CEO, co-founder mPharma
Gregory Rockson, CEO, co-founder mPharma

Ghanaian social entrepreneurs Gregory Rockson, Bright Simons and Selorm Branttie are to be honoured with the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2019, on April 10 for their works to end counterfeit pharmaceuticals and goods by leveraging emerging technologies.

Rockson’s mPharma electronic prescription drug software solution, and mPedigree - the sms food & goods authentication system to help doctors and consumers avoid purchasing counterfeit goods in real time by Simons and Branttie - have been named along with three others as winners of the prestigious global award which celebrates social entrepreneurs whose innovations have already had significant, proven impact on some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Brantie Simons and Selorm Branttie

Awardee organizations receive $1.5 million in core support investments to scale up their work and increase their impact, while the social entrepreneurs also gain leverage through their long-term participation in a global community of visionary leaders and innovators dedicated to solving some of the biggest global challenges of our time, according to the award organisers.

The awards ceremony is slated for Wednesday, April 10 at the New Theatre in Oxford, England as part of the 2019 Skoll World Forum.

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mPharma staff in Ghana

Counterfeit drugs kill an estimated one million people every year, and mPharma seeks to fix the broken prescription drug supply chain in Africa where pharmacies struggle to keep life-saving medicines in stock, by buying drugs on behalf of pharmacies and selling them on consignment.

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Thus instead of the more than 250 pharmacies across Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia in mPharma’s network managing their own inventory, mPharma sources, procures and finances it for them at no cost to the pharmacy. The pharmacy only pays mPharma for what they dispense to patients.

Through this service, mPharma is reducing inventory stockouts and the need for pharmacies to have access to capital to purchase their inventory. Over 100 pharmacies and hospitals in Ghana are in mPharma’s network including Nyaho Medical Center, The Mall Pharmacy and The University of Ghana Hospital.

mPharma staff in Nigeria

Gregory Rockson, the CEO of mPharma when told of the honour, said “We are honoured to see the work we started receive this acknowledgment from the Skoll Foundation. It encourages us to work harder in ensuring that no patient is denied access to high quality medicines due to cost or stockouts.”

Similarly, Simons and Branttie through mPedigree, are combatting the counterfeit market by equipping goods with a unique product identification marker (a scratch off label and code) that consumers use to determine product authenticity by sending a text message and receiving a response within seconds.

The other awardees are:
Crisis Text Line, a 24/7 mental health support service that reaches underserved demographics in the USA, Canada and the UK and leverages its data to catalyze a more effective, cohesive mental health system;

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator confronts South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis with its innovative job training methodology, business partnerships, and opportunity matching in Rwanda and South Africa; while

Thorn (which serves in about 36 countries) defends children from sexual abuse, scouring web data, publicly available classified ads, and online forum data with smart algorithms to help law enforcement find child victims.

“These brave entrepreneurs are on the frontlines of solving the world’s most pressing problems,” said Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation. “Each social entrepreneur may have a distinct approach, but they all share a relentless pursuit of impact and the desire to create a more just world.”

Richard Fahey, Interim President of the Skoll Foundation said “These leaders have demonstrated how to spark transformative change to improve health, protect vulnerable individuals, and provide new opportunities for young people,” adding that “We are thrilled to welcome these passionate problem solvers into the Skoll community.”