February 13, 2024

Powering Drug Shops, Empowering Communities in Tanzania

By Ibrahim Mudathiru

Pharmacist and drug shop owner Fides Said Kimaro helps a customer at Rwaech Drug Shop in Tandale, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (HETA via Stefano Bianco/Kino Media Ltd.)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — At Maisha Meds, we help digitize private drug shops, pharmacies, and clinics across Africa that have been an important first step in many people’s health care. But what’s a technology-focused organization to do when many of these sites don’t have reliable electricity in the first place?

This is something I’ve seen firsthand in Tanzania. About two-thirds of the facilities in our network are known as ADDOs, or Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlets. Despite the important role they play in their communities’ health, many are located in places with limited access to electricity. Relatively few have invested in renewable alternatives, such as solar power, whose high setup costs often overshadow the long-term economic benefits.

That’s why we partnered with HETA, the Health Electrification and Telecommunications Alliance, to increase access to sustainable electricity for 250 private-sector facilities in Tanzania. ZOLA Electric is supplying batteries and solar panels, and Maisha Meds provides tablet computers equipped with free pharmacy software that works both online and offline.

Pharmacist Fides Said Kimaro is a drug shop owner and is showing the solar panel control at her drug shop Rwaech Drug shop in Tandale, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The color of the solar panel control is black. Fides Said Kimaro the pharmacist also wears a black woven hat.
Pharmacist Fides Said Kimaro operates the solar panel control at her drug shop in Tandale, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (HETA via Stefano Bianco/Kino Media Ltd.)
This aerial shot shows solar panels on the roof of a pharmacy in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
This aerial shot shows solar panels on the roof of a pharmacy in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (HETA via Stefano Bianco/Kino Media Ltd.)
Tanzanian pharmacist and shop owner Fides Said Kimaro adds a customer's order using Maisha Meds' tablet software.
Pharmacist and shop owner Fides Said Kimaro adds medications to a customer’s order using Maisha Meds’ tablet software. (HETA via Stefano Bianco/Kino Media Ltd.)

Our partnership combines several advantages that help these small businesses serve communities more effectively. Maisha Meds’ software helps them make sales and manage their inventory, while HETA’s renewable energy helps them draw in more business — for example, by offering customers a place to charge their phones, and by keeping the lights on later.

This initiative strengthens not only small businesses but also women-owned businesses, which make up the majority of ADDOs in our network. Many of these women owners are trained as health practitioners — midwives, doctors, nurses — and seek additional sources of income that enable them to continue supporting their communities.

Bringing sustainable and renewable electricity to ADDOs isn’t just solving a problem today. We need to think about how health facilities will operate in a future of increasing climate change — for example, in the event that environmental challenges like heat or storms threaten connectivity to the electric grid. By making these sites more resilient to the challenges ahead, we’re fortifying entire communities.


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