9 actionable tips for growing your e-commerce sales 10x

Whether you’re thinking of starting up a new online store or you’re fairly established as an e-commerce business, one major hurdle you face is increasing your business reach. You have to keep thinking up innovative ways to get more sales for your business in a highly competitive market. Unless you’re an exclusive brand, you most likely have a lot of competition out there.

How can you ensure that your e-commerce store continually remains in your audience eyes? How do you acquire newer customers while retaining the ones you currently have?

Find below 9 actionable tips to help you grow your e-commerce sales and get the best ROI for your business.

  1. Streamline your customer’s options
  2. Increase the search stress for a highly discounted product or service
  3. Use the magic power of the number 9
  4. Optimise your checkout process
  5. Provide a secure shopping platform.
  6. Create the fear of missing out (FOMO)
  7. Start a content marketing campaign.
  8. Automate your SMS marketing campaigns
  9. Promote your e-commerce site via paid and organic optimisation

Actionable tips to help you grow your e-commerce business

Streamline your customer’s options

While offering up several opportunities to your customers may seem like the best way to get them to choose at least one option, this tactic may prove counterproductive.

When customers are left with an overwhelming number of decisions to take, they would more often than not choose the least tasking decision. This could mean not buying any product in a lot of cases.

In her study on the process of choosing, Psychologist Shenna Iyengar highlights why having fewer options are usually better than more. She conducted a simple experiment and found out that customers who were offered various brands of a particular product were more likely to sample all and less likely to decide on purchasing one.

The conversion to customers for those offered fewer options was 30% as compared to those who had more opportunities to pick from; a mere 3%.

The moral of the story: to get your customers to buy a product, give them fewer choices to choose from.

Promote your e-commerce site via paid promotions and organic search optimisation

Just like any other business platform, you need to advertise your e-commerce site to create awareness about your brand and what makes your business unique. You should also do this whenever you have new products or special offers.

If you’re running an e-commerce store, Facebook page and Instagram offers you the best platforms to showcase your products. Pinterest is another underutilised platform that you can use to draw attention to your brands.

You can find more tips for advertising your online business in this article on online advertising. A more sustainable way to promote your brand online is to optimise your e-commerce store for organic rankings on search engine result pages.

You can do this by targeting longtailed niche queries that customers type in when looking for your services. For instance, if your store deals with baby wear; you can target keywords like baby clothes online in Nigeria, cheap baby wears online, shop baby clothes online, etc. Optimising your website content for these search queries would help your business show up on the first page for such queries.

Shop con Pk picture
A good example is one of my clients’ business( shown in the screenshot above), an e-commerce store in Pakistan. He currently ranks among the top three for mini fan stores in Pakistan, and his website has been on the first page for more than a few months now.
Apart from optimising for user search queries, you need to start a content marketing campaign, on a scale that suits your budget, to sell more value to your subscribed customers.
Content marketing

Harness the magic power of the number 9:

Have you ever wondered why so many products displayed in big online e-commerce stores are never rounded up to the nearest whole number? You see a lot of 1.99, 2: 95, 99 prices and you may wonder – what’s the difference between 99 and 100.

A study done by MIT shows that price-sensitive customers most times do not make rational decisions when it comes to making a purchase. A mere one cent or one Naira difference could make a massive difference to the perceived cost of your product.

By reducing your prices by that negligible fraction, you can increase your e-commerce sales by 24 %. This study also showed that the number 9 in particular, has a magical effect of pulling in customers.

In the study, several customers were offered three price ranges for the same product, with the middle pricing ending in 9and surprisingly they all went with the price that had a 9 in them, even though this was not the cheapest alternative!

Lesson learned: if you want to improve sales for your e-commerce products, include the magic number 9 in your pricing. This only works, though, when you’re introducing a new product and hardly ever works for existing products.

Power of the number 9

Optimise your check out process

  • One way to do this is to offer your customers more options to pay for your services. Rather than sticking to credit or debit cards alone, try to integrate other payment options. You should include payment options like PayPal, stripe, Google pay, WePay etc.
  • Most e-commerce hosting sites like Magento and Shopify allow you to integrate up to 100 payment plans on your e-commerce site. 5% of users have been known to abandon their shopping carts because their credit cards were declined. While this may seem like a small number of your market potential, if you’re just starting up an e-commerce store, 5% of the customers you currently do not have is a significant number to lose. Try to integrate more than one payment option on your site to reduce the risk of abandoned carts.
  • Provide a seamless checkout experience: Make your navigation easy for your users by creating a simple check out process from your shopping point to the final waypoint. Only ask for necessary information for the transaction. Requesting your users to fill in a long form detailing so many specifics may not be the best way to make a sale.
  • In a study done on several consumers to find out why they abandoned their shopping carts, 27% of the respondents said that the checkout process was either too long or too complicated. 61% said they didn’t want to create an account. What this means is that as much as 60% of customers may not buy from your e-commerce store because the checkout process is not consumer friendly.
  • Declutter your e-commerce site. Make your store user-friendly and easy on the eyes. You don’t have to place all the items you have on display on one page. You could create multiple display pages and provide a navigation bar that allows your users to move from one display interface to the next.
  • Ensure a smooth navigation process on your e-commerce site by Creating category pages. This allow your users to browse stock based on different available categories.
  • Optimise your sites mobile speed.This is important because a lot of customers shop on their mobile devices. A few seconds delay in site loading may cause them to move on to the next shopping platform.

An excellent example of a robust and well-optimised check out platform is the SME market hub checkout platform. Apart from offering various payment options, this platform also provides several options for checking out. This includes the opportunity to check out as a guest, i.e. no registration required.

Some market hub checkout point

Offer your customers a secure shopping platform.

Merely encrypting your website with an SSL certificate increases the credibility and trustworthiness of your store. Display your trust signals thought-out the checkout process. Show your secure payment platform badge, secure SSL encryption. This tells your customers that any information they provide you( their names, addresses and phone numbers) are safe and secure.

Create the fear of missing out ( FOMO)

The fear of missing out is what spurs us into taking action when we see that there are limited amounts of a particular product or service we want. Nobody wants to be left out, and this is also true for shoppers on your e-commerce platforms. There are several ways you can leverage FOMO to drive more sales on your e-commerce websites.

  • Create artificial scarcity. You can tweak your display counter to show a limited availability of that product even if you have zillions of it still in stock( after all, all’s fair in love, war and e-commerce selling!). Display this limited number of products when a customer clicks on that particular item. When a customer sees that a specific product is running out, they are more likely to make a purchase there and then.
  • Display the number of a particular product you have sold recently to show customers that others are buying. The fear of missing out on something other people are getting could spur some of your customers into taking action.
  • Display a countdown timer on a discounted product. Amazon is very good at doing this and Jumia also inculcates this practice on their e-commerce website. Once customer see that the discount is only available for a limited period it would gear them into placing an order. They could even end up buying more of the product than they planned to initially.
  • Show customers people that have just ordered a particular product from you. This real-time purchase displays can help your customer gain confidence to buy that same product.
Cyber Monday sales

Automate your SMS marketing campaign

You can send useful information, deals, price discount offers and even curated news via mail or text messages to your customers. Text messaging is a great way to post valuable content to both potential customers and established customers on e-commerce sites; almost as good as sending emails. There are a lot of things you can do with an automated SMS process.

  • Follow up on abandoned shopping carts with integration tool like the one SMS bump offers. This tool provides an easy way to send automated shopping cart abandonment messages.
  • Send special offers and price discounts to subscribed customers.
  • Notify your subscribers on new arrivals.
  • Send holiday messages too, a great way to cement your bond with your existing customers. A more innovative approach to building a stable connection with your customers would be to send them customised messages on their special days; birthdays, wedding anniversaries. To do that you’ll need these dates, and you can customise your sign up form to include these options. Make sure you let them know why you want those details. You can label this as an optional form field they can choose to ignore if they wish.

Start a targeted content marketing campaign

Providing more value for your services may require that you go beyond simple text messaging. You could start by creating a newsletter to provide valuable and relevant information to your business subscribers.

If you sell baby products, your information could be regular tips that pertain to baby care. If you sell fashion products, I’m sure your subscribers would be interested in information that could improve their fashion savviness. This will help cement your relationship with your existing customers and strengthen their loyalty to your brand.

The articles depot team can help you plan and execute your content marketing strategies on a simple platform. Our content strategy platform provides you with the right outline for your content marketing activities.

Promote your content

Increase the search stress on highly discounted products

Now I know this last part sounds counterintuitive to what you’re trying to achieve, which is creating a better user experience that will lead to more sales. But a recent study ( I’m talking as recent as March this year), proves that increasing the search stress reasonably on moderate to heavily discounted products could increase your sales for that product. This sales technique could even improve sales for your store as a whole.

What do I mean by a reasonable level of search friction? While increasing search stress, you have to be careful to do it in such a way that you don’t send customers running off your site, which means there has to be a great incentive to make your customer, ( especially your price sensitive customers ) want to continue to search for the product.

In this study on search friction, the researchers from Havard did a preliminary test to explore the best methods for increasing search friction that would have the least negative effect on user experience.

They explored different ways to increase search friction. Removing a direct link to the discounted product, increasing the number of pages a user would have to browse, removing any visual price indicators on the discounted products.

They postulated that under certain conditions, increasing the search stress on the highly discounted product would yield more sales for an online store. The terms being:

  • Price sensitive customers would have to browse through several undiscounted products before finally getting to the discounted product they initially set out to buy. Doing so would expose them potentially to other products they probably had no prior intention of buying, but which they could also find useful and include in their shopping cart as well.
  • Price-insensitive customers would not bother searching intensively for the discounted products and would probably remove the search friction by choosing from the undiscounted product section.
  • Price sensitive customers would continue to search for the discounted product until they can locate it.

The results?

The customers were randomly assigned to a treatment group ( those who experienced the search friction), and a control group and the sales results from both groups were assessed.

At the end of the research, they found that the number of discounted items purchased in the treatment group was less than in the control group, while the total number of items purchased overall was significantly higher in the treatment group( the group exposed to search friction). You can download the full details on this study here

What does this mean for growing your e-commerce business? If you have a highly discounted product, you could leverage this product to improve your sales overall and even deals on non- discounted brands by moderately increasing the search stress for that discounted product.

A fourth condition that would possibly make this work in a price sensitive environment would be that on locating the highly discounted products, the price sensitive customer would most likely buy more than they set out to buy initially. This is probably, so they don’t have to go through the process again anytime soon.


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5 simple rules of writing good SEO Content.

While I was researching material for this post, I came across so many articles with slightly different perspectives on how to write good SEO content, from trusted and respected names in the content marketing and SEO Industry. They all had volumes to say on what makes good SEO content; I’m sure you’ve seen quite a number of these responses in answer to your search queries for how do you write excellent SEO content?

  • Data-driven content
  • Focused on user intent
  • Page links to and from high authority websites
  • No keyword stuffing
  • Grammatically correct articles
  • Mobile-friendly pages

Some lists were quite exhaustive, and if we were to pick the points above one by one, you probably could write an article around each of them. It’s a wonder how anyone can keep all these in mind when creating a SEO article.

In this post, I have summarised all the qualities and rules of good SEO Content writing in a straightforward formula- the G.R.E.A.T formula. Next time you sit down to write a SEO article or blog post, follow the G.R.E.A.T formula, and you’re good to go.

Great simply means

Google compliant

Relevant to user query and search intent

Engaging in style and language

Authoritative- having a high level of expertise and trustworthiness

Thick content that comprehensively covers the subject of the article.



Google compliant SEO content

How do you write SEO articles that are Google compliant?

Stop thinking in terms of Keyword optimization

Before the advent of Penguin and the Panda algorithms, SEO content writing was all about placing as many of your keywords as possible into the body of your text! I sometimes wonder at the readability of a lot of articles created in those days. Nowadays, writing good SEO content goes way beyond keywords and focuses on user intent.I’ll expound more on that when I talk about relevance.

No Backlink is way better than spammy back links.

According to Google having no backlinks or very few backlinks of high quality is way better than getting low-quality backlinks in their hundreds and thousands. You can find out what Google has to say about backlinks and especially what links qualify as spammy links by clicking on the link below.

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en

While backlinks are necessary to improve your overall authority, page rank and trust score; they may not be the only significant factor when it comes to ranking of your blog posts. Other factors come into play too depending on the competition for the keyword you are targeting.It’s usually better to target long tailed keywords with low competition and high search volume If your site doesn’ t have a high DA or trust score.Gradually as you gain more links by building quality content, you can begin to target more competitive keywords in your niche industry.

Buying backlinks to boost your blog post or website authority could hurt you in the long run. Instead, you should target long tailed low competition keywords with a reasonably high volume of search queries.

You can get the complete list on the bad SEO practices that could get your website penalised from this article by Neil Patel.

Relevant to User and Search engines

Based on Google’s definition of high-quality content, we see that relevance is critical to determining how well your SEO article ranks on the SERP. To define content relevance, we will need to look at three parameters.

Relevance to Search queries

Relevance to Search intent

Relevant to Search engines


Must be relevant to search queries

The first significant question to ask would be how do you even find a topic to create a high-quality SEO blog post about? If people are not interested in the subject, no matter how well presented or well crafted it is, you are not likely to get as much audience engagement as you should. Creating SEO content is hard work, and it would be pretty much a wasted effort if you don’t research to find the right topics that are relevant to your audience. You can Find relevant topics by mining information from social media forums like Quora. Find the issues people are talking about in your niche. Join the conversation, and you’ll probably get a few ideas for your next blog post.

Must be relevant to user intent

Let’s suppose you are writing an article on how to make your first business presentation; it’s evident that the persons you would target are newbie salespersons or entrepreneurs with no experience in making public presentations. Someone speaking for the first time probably has a level of apprehension, and your article should cover as much of the topics below and more, to capture their search intent.

  • They probably want tips on how to introduce themselves properly.
  • They would wish to have suggestions on how to conquer their nervousness
  • They most definitely would want to know how to start the presentation- what icebreakers to use etc
  • They may be interested in a few real experiences where people had similar challenges and how they were able to overcome their anxiety.

The Keywords everywhere tool is a useful resource that can help you create content that exhaustively covers user intent.

Must be relevant to search engines

Now that you’ve created a relevant blog article, how do you intend to get it to the first page on search engines, preferably among the coveted number 1-3 position where your readers can find it.This is where Search engine optimisation for the search bots comes in. To get the article indexed by search engines you need to present it in a format that allows for easy crawling and indexing.

  • You started your research based on a query- how to make your first presentation. Now what you need to do is optimise your meta titles, meta descriptions, headings and subheadings with this query and variations of it.
  • Make sure your page title is clear
  • You would also need to look at your mobile friendliness which is crucial because too slow a page leads to bad user experience, and we all know Google frowns on lousy user experience).
  • Next, optimise your images. Make sure to add alt texts and use compressed images.
  • Craft search-friendly URLs.The ideal URL is short and does not contain numbers or symbols like underscore, %, etc. You can find more tips on how to SEO your article in my post content writing tips for beginners, how to create content that ranks.


Create engaging content

Engaging content is content that has a high click-through rate and low bounce rate. Other telling features of engaging content includes likes, comments( this may not be totally true as some articles may spark negative comments), shares on social media etc.

For content to engage, it must first capture the user’s interest. Follow the guide below to write engaging content.

  • Use captivating meta descriptions: Bear in mind that meta descriptions are not really for the search engines as Google has been known to change meta descriptions of website content based on what it feels serves a query best. Meta descriptions are for your audience, and a good description would generate a higher CTR.
  • The mode of presentation of your SEO content should be appealing such that the person reading it does not get bored and is not overwhelmed with information. Break up the page into subheadings or multiple pages if the content is quite long. Use anchors to divide the page into subtopics to allow for easy navigation.This would help a reader who is interested in certain parts of the information you present, navigate to those parts easily. Generally, if the content on your page is more than 2500 words, it would be a good idea to use anchors or page breaks.
  • Use visuals that are relevant to the topic and your style of presentation.
  • Use videos and infographics to provide a richer user experience and increase the time spent on your site.
  • Actively encourage shares, likes, and comments on your blog posts.
  • Post your content to social media forums and promote or boost your post to reach a wider audience.

Engaging content would lead to higher CTR and more social shares which signal to Google that the blog post is of high-quality. It’s a case of cause-effect; it’s not the number of shares that lead to websites ranking higher on the net, the shares are only an indication of the quality of content as far as Google is concerned.

A- authority and expertise :

What’s your level of expertise or authority on the topic? The level of experience that goes into creating the content and the credibility of the source is fundamental in getting your human and robot audience to trust the information you present. In a situation like the one above, your audience is more likely to believe your article and read through if you have experience in presenting to audiences or if your business is related to making business presentations. The same thing goes for the search engines.

Does this mean you cannot create articles on a topic unless you are an expert? Generally, your items are more likely to rank on the first page for a problem, If you have a high level of expertise, authority and trustworthiness on that topic( EAT). Let’s see what Google has to say about this: According to Google’s definition of quality for various web content forms, there are some topics where an expert or authority in that field is necessary before it could be classified as high-quality article and rank as such. Such issues are referred to as your money your life articles (YMYL). Google classifies YMYL articles into six categories :

Medical advice

News articles

Information on scientific topics or research

Financial advice, legal advice, tax advice

Information on home remodelling, renovations and other advice that involves spending a substantial amount of money.

Specific hobbies or interests that require some level of hands on experience e.g playing a musical instrument

What this means is that to create quality content on YMYL topics where life, money, property is involved or where a high level of accuracy and expertise is required, you have to be an authority or expert in that field. There are some exceptions, though, and a major one is a life experience. Google content quality policies allow for sound first-person expertise as long as it is accurately written and is documented as such. Forums or blogs where people share personal experiences on YMYL topics are deemed as having a high level of EAT. Three ways in which you can show expertise if you are not a subject matter authority are:

  • Have good first hand experience on a topic
  • If you gain an interview from an authority on that topic
  • If you quote authority sources to back up your article.

Thick content

The last quality to remember is content comprehensiveness. To write a good SEO article, you must completely cover the topic you are writing about. Based on what Google has to say about this, there is no ideal length for an article. The perfect length of an article would depend on what the topic intends to cover, which should ideally be based on satisfying a particular user intent.The screenshot below accurately sums up Googles thoughts on content length and breadth of an article.


You can download the complete Google guide on content quality here.

Curated from search engine land.

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How to be a successful medical sales representative


This comprehensive sales guide for medical sales reps provides in-depth information on the art of sales and selling in the Pharma Industry. In this article you’ll learn all the skills of effective communication with health care practitioners.You’ll also learn how to master the art of profiling your customers and selling according to their personality and their stage in the buyer journey.Learn how to create the perfect A -B shift that converts potential customers to loyalists and brand advocates.

As a medical sales representative, you are tasked with the duty of selling pharmaceuticals or diagnostic devices. You serve as the link between your customer- The Health care Professionals(HCPs) and the end user- the patient.

HCPs here means doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and all other health care professionals who provide diagnostic and therapeutic services to patients.

Your objective for each call to your clients should, therefore, be to provide value for the patient, your product, and the practitioner.

Continue reading “How to be a successful medical sales representative”

Quality medicines for all in Subsaharan Africa; fairytale or a possibility?

Is it possible for the Sub-Saharan Nations to provide quality medicines for all citizens? What are the barriers to accessing quality medication by patients living in the African regions beyond the Sahara desert? What can we do to turn the slogan ‘Quality medicines for all’ into a reality in Sub-Saharan Africa?

A basic fundamental right of patients is access to good medical care as, and when required. The degree of quality of the healthcare provided is subjective, but I think we can all agree that ‘quality’ medical care must possess all the following attributes.

  • It must involve the patient in all aspects of the decision-making process at every stage of treatment. The patient needs to be aware of the impact of the disease on their quality of life, know the available treatment options and the cost of management for each option.
  • There should be a healthy relationship between the patient, caregivers, and health service providers. The patient’s caregivers have to be an integral part of the disease management process.
  • Last but not least, the health care services provided must be affordable, convenient, easy to access and up to the minimum acceptable quality standards. Going by the attributes listed above, the minimum desired quality criteria for any medicine are: it must meet the required efficacy and safety standards, be affordable, and readily available.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in sub-Saharan Africa and patients often have to resign themselves to sub-par quality medicines which may either cause a worsening in their disease symptoms or, ultimately, loss of life.

Alternatively, they could end up buying more expensive brands that carve deep holes in their pockets.

What defines quality in a medication?

For a medication to achieve the minimum desired quality parameters, it must meet the required efficacy and safety standards, be affordable, and be readily available.

Poor access to quality medicine kills an estimated six million people every year in sub-Saharan Africa, from communicable diseases such as malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS. These statistics do not take into account the number of people who die from non-infectious diseases like hypertension, diabetes, kidney diseases, and heart failure.

There are several obstacles to accessing quality medicine in sub-Saharan Africa and we can broadly classify these into four groups:

1. Poor quality control standards

2. Supply-chain issues

3. Affordability

4. The people factor

Poor quality assessment controls for Medicines in Sub Saharan Africa

  • Inadequate regulatory facilities: The National Medicines Regulatory Authorities (NMRA) in the African region often lack the necessary equipment to conduct proper testing for the levels of active ingredients and contaminants. Tests for dissolution properties which would determine the bioavailability of the medicine in the body are often not carried out. Low-quality drugs, both locally produced and imported, are thus able to enter into circulation unhindered.
  • Porous borders: Due to the porous borders, drugs are smuggled in easily from other countries. The challenge with some of these medicines is the poor storage conditions in which they may have been held for a while during the shipping process. This poor storage could lead to degradation of the active ingredient, rendering the drug ineffective to the final user. Another challenge is that such drugs enter the circulation without undergoing the proper quality control tests and may prove hazardous to patients.
  • Improper storage of Medicines: This is often due to the frequent power outages in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria. Medicines need to be preserved under ideal conditions to avoid loss of efficacy. Storage of vaccines, eye drops, and tetanus toxoids should always be at low temperatures.

Supply Chain and Availability Issues :

The availability issues affect both the multi-national pharma industries that import premium brands to sub-Saharan Africa as well as the generic companies that source raw materials for drug production from outside Africa. Most of these multi-nationals do not have direct trade rights within Africa and usually enlist third-party supply companies to get their brands into the country.

The unstable economic situation and fluctuations in the exchange rate often affect the availability of some of these medications. Unfortunately, because most of these multinationals sign exclusivity agreements with specific third-party agents, they are not at liberty to switch to an alternative source of supply in the interim. What this means is that a patient who has been on the medication has to find an alternative, which may or may not be of the same high quality. For locally produced drugs, availability depends on the supply of raw materials which are usually imported from outside the sub-Saharan region. Political unrest, import duties, and customs policies could affect the amount of these raw materials, and hence the production of the finished medicines.

Affordability issues impact access to quality medicines in sub-Saharan Africa

Statistics show that almost 3/4 of the population of sub-Saharan Africa live on two dollars per day. The average cost of medication for treating a common acute infection like malaria is 2-2.5 USD, which means the average person may have to forgo a day’s meal to afford common medications. The burden of managing chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension that need regular medication could prove too much for the common man to bear. This prohibitive cost of treatment often leads to poor patient adherence to therapy and poor treatment outcomes.

The People Factor :

There is no gainsaying the fact that the human factor will always be involved in patient healthcare and contribute in no small measure to their ability to receive quality medications as at when due. The major human factors that may influence proper access to quality medications include:

  • Physician’s opinions: Physician inertia to prescribe a more effective medicine as a result of perceived cost or a knowledge gap may result in the poor quality of care. On the flipside, due to a vested interest in certain medications or companies, physicians may over-prescribe certain medications for their gain. Patients wrong priorities: Patients often prioritise other activities over health-related issues. Even when they can afford quality medicines, they may decide to go for cheaper alternatives which may be substandard.
  • Reduced Pharmacy involvement in Patient Care: The Pharmacist, as the custodian of medicines is meant to give unbiased advice to prescribing physicians on the quality and safety of medications. Unfortunately, more often than not, the Pharmacist is relegated to the role of mere drug dispenser in the hospital setting.
  • The Patent Medicine stores: This group of medicine dispensers have a significant role to play in the dispensing of inadequate quality medications. Some of these patent stores offer consultation services to patients for chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. The unwitting Patients flock to these stores in hopes of getting affordable solutions for their ailments. A lot of times the patient ends up in far worse conditions after taking these substandard medications.

Brilliant Initiatives that have Improved Access to Quality Medicines in Africa

Several laudable initiatives have been rolled out across the various regions in Sub-Saharan Africa that have improved access to quality medicines. Some of these are: The National Health Insurance Scheme, Roll-back Malaria Initiative, Subsidized And Free Medicine schemes, Promoting The Quality of Medicines program.

  • The National Health Insurance Scheme: Social health insurance schemes have been implemented in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce the cost of medication to the poor. In Ghana, for instance, the health insurance scheme is designed to cover timpoverishedation costs for at least 50% of the impoverished population. In Nigeria, the National Health insurance scheme has distinct platforms for both the private and Government sectors. There is also a new insurance scheme in Nigeria for retirees and the elderly to reduce the impact of health cost to their caregivers. What these health schemes have in common is that they involve the pooling of funds by a majority. This central pool can then be used to provide adequate care for patients. Some of the challenges that the various Health insurance schemes have faced since their inception include: Inconsistent Government support. The Governing power may not have health care on its agenda. Mismanagement of the funds by corrupt administrators. The questionable Quality of some of the medications allowed on the NHIS scheme. The majority of the poor do not have access to these schemes either because they are not gainfully employed, or they live in remote and inaccessible areas.
  • The Roll Back Malaria Initiative. The Abuja declaration in 2000 was a convening of 53 heads of state to specify some milestones they planned to achieve in the eradication of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. It was declared that by 2010, at least 60% of the population would have access to Artemisinin-based the d anti-malarial therapies within 8 hours of onset of malaria symptoms. Several laudable objectives include free antimalarial treatment for 60% of the at-risk population, free mosquito nets for the prevention of malaria infection, and free preventive medications for expectant women. The challenges experienced by this multi-national project are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that human factors and poor management decision led to the failure to attain the desired outcome.
  • Subsidized And Free Medicine Schemes. Some International bodies in partnership with State Governments provide access to free or highly subsidized medications for infectious diseases. The spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and Hepatitis has been checked as a result of the reduced burden of cost. In addition timmunisation by providing free vaccines and immunization for children, many infectious illnesses like polio and small-pox have been completely eradicated. The one-dollar access to medicine initiative by the Big Pharma companies aims to provide access to premium brands at a token cost to patients. This scheme is already in effect in certain Nations like Rwanda.
  • The Promoting the Quality of Medicines (PQM) is an initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development. The objective of this program is to support the Quality control bodies in the sub-Saharan region by providing the equipment and reagents to conduct proper safety and quality assessments. These assays are performed primarily for essential medicines like antimalarials and anti-infective medications. This program has been implemented in 13 African countries and has aided in the detection of counterfeit, parallel imports and fake medications.

What Needs To be Improved Upon to Deliver Better Access to Quality Medicines

There have been several suggestions regarding what needs to be done to improve the quality of health care and especially access to medicines for the average patient. I have included here some of the more feasible solutions and added a few, which from my experience in the hospital and private pharmacy sector may prove invaluable.

The Government needs to make Health care a Priority.

  • Without Government support, any medicine access scheme may not likely be sustainable. The ways in which the Government can help are: Partnering with the Big Pharma companies to subsidise the cost of chronic disease medications.
  • Improving access to NHIS schemes for the poor through better collaboration with MDGs to reach the remote areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Another method that may work is to create a disparity in contribution to the NHIS funds. The wealthier citizens could pay more than the stipulated percentage thus allowing the poor to access treatment at negligible costs.
  • The Quality control sector should either be better funded or privatised to enable the purchase of better equipment for quality assessment of imported and locally produced drugs.
  • There is also the need for constant quality checks at the pharmacy and patent medicine stores. Tightening up the borders and instigating stricter importation laws to check the illegal influx of medicines.
  • The Government should also look into providing basic amenities that could entice the Big pharma corporations into investing in the production of drugs in sub-Saharan Afric

Pharmacists have a significant role to play in ensuring proper storage of medications.

The pharmacists may need to step up their game to assume their rightful role as advisers to physicians and patients on medication quality and safety.Rather than bicker about policies and politics, the pharmacists in sub-Saharan Africa should create value in the pharmacy practice.Let’s assume our rightful roles as the custodians of medicines and the go-to knowledge base on anything about drugs.

It is the duty of prescribing physicians to protect the patient’s interests at all times.

Regardless of whatever incentives to specify a particular brand, quality of a medication should be the primary consideration( affordability, cost-effectiveness, and availability). Also, as much as possible the patient must be carried along in the decision-making process.

Could investing in herbal medicines aid access to quality care?

Alternative medicine provides another possible source of quality medications for patients. The term Alternative medicine as used here refers to herbal supplements and potions used to treat or prevent disease.

The advantages of these non-conventional forms of drug therapy are:

They appeal to the patients’ cultural and social beliefs and thus may improve adherence.

They are usually more affordable in the long-run than orthodox medicines.

They are generally perceived to be more natural and therefore are less likely to be linked with adverse effects.

These alternative medicines claim to heal from the root and do not offer symptomatic management of diseases.

The disadvantages include:

The Regulatory Authorities do not regulate them and as such their safety and efficacy are questionable.

Their side effects and drug-drug interaction profiles are unknown, and there could be harmful interactions if they are administered concurrently with other medications.

Limited Scientific Research in the field of Alternative Medicine means that the correct dose of the active ingredient required to elicit the therapeutic effect is purely guesswork.

Perhaps one innovative idea by which Sub-Saharan Governments can improve access to quality medicines is by investing in Alternative medicine.

References https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1239960/ file:///C:/Users/user/Documents/sbitmart%20blogpost.pdf https://academic.oup.com/inthealth/article/10/1/1/4794744 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)66391-X/fulltext https://www.usp-pqm.org/sites/default/files/pqms/article/pqm-in-ssa-2015-02.pdf https://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/herbs-vs-drugs-facts-about-medicine-zmaz06djzraw