Dec 2022 – Feb 2023
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Henok studied Pharmacy at Haramaya University, Dire Dawa, before going on to obtain an MBA in Marketing Management at St. Mary University, Addis Ababa.
He has been working in the healthcare sector for over ten years and started his first company ‘Hendom Pharmacy’ in 2017. Last April he set up an additional company, ‘Accrescent Pharma’ which distributes pharmaceutical products throughout Ethiopia.
AGN; What was family life like for you as a child and what did your mother and father do?
HG; My father was a public prosecutor and now works as a lawyer. My mother ran a small shop but her primary role was to look after her children.
I have 4 siblings; 3 brothers and one sister. I am grateful for the dedication and efforts my parents invested in us. The economic climate during my childhood was fairly muted and this impacted on the quality of life of the general populace. Like everyone, we had our ups and downs.
AGN; Who most inspired you as a child?
HG; It would have to be my mother. My father was away for 8 years studying law in what is now Ukraine. My mother worked multiple jobs and gave me and my siblings what we needed in order for us to establish ourselves. She is a fighter and I draw so much of what I am from her.
AGN; Why did you study pharmacy?
HG; The reasons are twofold. I did very well at chemistry so it was a natural progression for me. Also, deep down I wanted to be of help to my community. Combining my aptitude for chemistry with my desire to be of help in the community organically led me to pharmacy.
AGN; What do Hendom Pharmacy and Accrescent Pharma do and why did you set them up?
HG; Hendom Pharmacy
Hendom Pharmacy is a retail operation based on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. It only caters for the local market serving approx 100k people per annum.
In order to set it up I was able to obtain a small community loan and additional funding through a system we operate locally here called an Equib. An Equib typically comprises of a group of people who contribute an equal amount of money at regular intervals e.g. £100.00 each per month.
Let’s say we have 5 people in the Equib. One member will be selected as the administrator. Each month one person from the group will be selected via a lucky draw to be awarded the whole amount collected. Whoever secures the award is not eligible for the draw in following months but they are still obliged to continue contributions.
There are shortages in the pharmaceutical market in Ethiopia. Accrescent Pharma was set up in order to help fill the gaps.
At present we are primarily involved with importation and distribution of pharmaceutical products but that is a stepping stone to manufacturing.
We are currently involved with 5 pharmaceutical manufactures; 2 in China and 3 in India. In the next 10 to 15 years we want to establish manufacturing facilities in Ethiopia. This will enable us to leverage our own research and development with a view to bringing home-grown solutions to market.
AGN; What is the health system like in Ethiopia?
HG; A national health insurance scheme was established about 4 or 5 years ago. Gradually the initial challenges of rolling out such a scheme are being ironed out and things are getting better.
As far as our Capital city is concerned, most people are insured. For a small annual contribution this allows for free medical attention at state or federal government hospitals. In any case even if one does not have insurance, primary health care costs just 1 Bir for a consultation and that is very affordable for most people across the socioeconomic spectrum.
The advantage of being insured is that many prescriptions are free whereas those without it not only have to pay to be seen but they also have to pay for any prescriptions.
There are of course those who cannot afford to pay for health insurance. Businesses such as mine are part of a program that pays to insure some of the people who are unable to afford the cost of insurance.
AGN; How would you say Ethiopia compares to other African countries?
HG; I would say we are not in as good a position as we could be. If you compare us to some of our neighbours as well as some other countries on the continent, they appear to be in a better place at this time.
Managing our ethnic diversity is still something we are grappling with. One could also point to external forces within and outside of the continent that have to be contended with.
AGN; What is your hope for your country?
HG; I hope that all but particularly the younger generation do not doubt their abilities but believe in themselves and go for what they desire. I want everyone to have equal opportunity and for all citizens irrespective of ethnic origin to be able to actualize themselves and live well.
AGN; What is your greatest strength?
HG; I feel it would be fairer if my friends answer this one. In all honesty I think it would be my persistence. I tend to stick it out once I have set my mind on something. I can also be quite brave and don’t often shy away from taking calculated risks.
AGN; What is your greatest weakness?
HG; I am not easily satisfied. I always see myself as someone who hasn’t achieved anything. Sometimes it weighs heavily on my mind.
AGN; What do you see as Africa’s greatest weakness and how might it be overcome?
HG; Individualism is what I perceive to be our greatest weakness as Africans. I put this down to ignorance. Hopefully with the right education and awareness this is something that will change over time. Onwards and upwards. That’s all we can do.
Previous ‘Personal Profile’ interviews are available here; archive
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on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) - Dec 2022