DAWA Limited : Accessible Aid

Marcus KaapaCallam Waller
Marcus Kaapa - Head of Editorial Callam Waller - Senior Head of Projects

DAWA Limited is on a mission to bring more affordable and accessible pharmaceutical products to those who need them across Africa.


Africa’s healthcare industry is growing in importance and size. 

For instance, the value of the region’s pharmaceuticals sector has increased from $5.5 billion in 2007 to $28.5 billion in 2017, and the rapid pace of growth is expected to see the market hit $70 billion by 2030.

Alongside this, as the continent has experienced a substantial rise in population, and a shift from rural to urban living for large numbers of African people. 

Urbanisation has seen the major development of infrastructure in cities, and the growth of healthcare facility capacities. On top of this, the way African business is conducted has shifted to encourage domestic pharmaceutical production by, for example, importation restrictions and pricing controls. 

And within the healthcare industry, pharmaceutical companies have become more important than ever. Developing areas require pharmaceutical products to aid the health of rapidly growing populations. Those that move from rural to urban, while able to access pharmaceutical products more easily, are more likely to be exposed to illnesses due to the nature of a highly concentrated populace. This urbanisation has created a massive (and continually expanding) demand for pharmaceuticals. 

Despite this, many countries within the continent are home to developing areas and regions that, often due to their remote locations, are disconnected from the most advanced and modern methods or resources that are staple aspects of healthcare in other areas of the globe. Geographic barriers also mean the transport of these products can be limited.


DAWA Limited is one company seeking to boost the accessibility of pharmaceuticals.

It stands as one of the leading and most progressive pharmaceutical companies in Kenya and East Africa, and provides accessible human healthcare products to 10 different countries in the continent. The business has decades of experience behind it in the manufacture of its products, and aims to becoming one of the leading global pharmaceutical companies as to enhance the quality of life for people all over Africa and beyond.

In order to reach as many people in need as it can, DAWA has focused on pursuing an aggressive growth strategy which has seen it expand its range of products and even set up a state-of-the-art penicillin manufacturing facility to advance its goal of bringing healthcare products to more people.

It has been 14 years since DAWA’s inception in 2006, and the company has never felt such a positive impact from its growing presence. 

Pedro Filipe is the company’s Chief Executive Officer. He has been a key part of the firm’s expansion and has had the pleasure of watching it provide financially viable and accessible pharmaceutical products to countless individuals throughout the countries in which it serves. 

Filipe started his career in pharmaceuticals after he left university. Having gained a degree in naval engineering in 1996, his intended career was quite far from the healthcare industry. He gained employment at a shipyard but, wishing to work closer to home, he took the opportunity to work for a small multinational pharmaceutical firm. He joined the team and healthcare industry for the first time, and took the role of Validation Manager for the company.

“From there I had worked hard from 1997 till 2004, which is when I joined a company in Portugal called Generis Pharmaceuticals SA (Generis Farmacêutica S.A.),” Filipe tells us. 

“I worked on a project with a few others and we were the three leading parties of that particular company. Simply put, I was designing a manufacturing facility, and after the facility was complete, I became in charge of the business-to-business relations of the company, as well as all the industrial operations associated.”


Filipe parted ways with Generis in 2010, his focus now being to take DAWA to the next level. 

So, what makes DAWA a leading manufacturer of healthcare products in East Africa? Put simply, it largely comes down to the company’s values and overall aims. 

DAWA’s management and leadership differs from that of its competitors in the industry. Where the overwhelming majority of other manufacturers house a management system stemming from a single (or a few) key figures, DAWA’s decision making process concerns a multitude of individuals. 

Filipe explains further: “90-100 percent of pharmaceutical companies are family owned businesses and still hold to a very traditional family run structure. These company’s decisions are all made through the owner(s), and these decision-makers need to understand that the future success of their businesses require professionals (those of medical, marketing, and business) to be in a position of control.” 

DAWA’s company structure places professionalism above ownership decision-making and so caters to the needs of their customer base, and those areas most in need of pharmaceutical products. Yet it is also through the direct necessity of its products that such a business is set above its competition.

“The open-mindedness and transparency of a business is a big advantage. But it is the critical mass that sets us apart. We are talking about a company that supplies around the 20 percent of all the pharmaceuticals in Kenya, so the country of the Kenya cannot live without DAWA the same way as that DAWA can live without Kenya. Simply put, no other healthcare company holds this kind of critical mass, and so we are set apart by necessity,” Filipe says.

The firm reinforces this mindset through its continual collective and shared views on the functioning of companies, and also the functioning of African life in general. Filipe notes that DAWA aims to shift the culture of Africa from the “me” to the “we”. In this way the African people can understand that collectively they can all reach the same progressive goals together. For clarity he gives us an example of this addressed issue in real urban African life. 

“The example I usually give in town hall meetings, cultural surveys (and the like) is this: there is a situation with traffic in Africa. During rush hours everybody wishes to reach home first. The roads are clogged with cars and everybody is vying for spaces to jump ahead of one another, and speed through the lights to get ahead with their journey. 

“In the end, one or two people might get home faster by jumping ahead of the others, but the confusion and trouble caused by all those pushing ahead means almost everyone reaches home later. Should the traffic work together, and if drivers had a respect for one another, the entire system would collectively flow better, and everybody would reach home on time to see their families,” he explains.

This is a simple but effective concept that represents the way DAWA believes companies (and culture) should operate. A secondary idea linked to this is the prospect of communicating problems. Filipe notes that people in Africa could work together much more effectively if it shifted from a ‘punishment culture’ to an ‘accountability culture’. In this way it is the discussion of issues, not the punishment of them, that could fuel better cultural operation – a lesson that can be adopted into the way businesses work and grow.

DAWA keeps to a company mindset geared towards progression and the needs of its workforce and customers. These form its core values, and the firm strives to apply this notion of togetherness in every aspect of business it can. 

For any pharmaceutical manufacturer the relationship between company and supplier is of paramount importance. According to Filipe, aspects of the industry such as the transportation of pharmaceuticals across Africa is no easy process, and to that end the company needs to be sure that they are working with reliable businesses to reach mutual and beneficial ends. 

“Our suppliers are people that we have been working with for a long time,” he says. “There are those that are new and are coming into the picture. But the most important need for DAWA is the guarantee quality, on-time deliveries so that everybody thrives.

“We work with English and Chinese companies in the chain, and we even have an India-based liaison office that consists of seven people looking to bring partners into our supply chain, that has thus far worked very well. Our commitment to our partners remains 100 percent, and their support is very important.” 

The end of 2020 is on its way and the rest of the decade lays ahead. For DAWA, priorities surround a set mixture of goals in keeping with the company’s values and aims. 2021 will see the firm looking to maintain a stable period of planned projects and restructuring. Beyond that, there are a few other plans in the works. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak disrupting business globally, the healthcare industry has been being pushed like never before. To deal with heightening demand for products, DAWA reshaped its manufacturing by growing the automation of its pharmaceutical production. 

On top of this, reinvestment in brand awareness is a large part of the plan for next year and beyond. This will include the rebranding of the company logo among other aspects. 

Investment in marketing campaigns are also on the table, as DAWA aims to stand out beyond its competitors and reach a larger customer base with five new products coming next year. 

The future development and growth of DAWA’s products is increasing. Filipe assures us that through the company’s dedication to providing a higher quality of life for African people, and its coming plans in the next year, it will reach its aim of being one of the leading pharmaceutical companies not only in Africa, but the world.

REPUBLISHED ON:Healthcare Outlook
PUBLISHED BY:Outlook Publishing
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By Callam Waller Senior Head of Projects