Afriplex – Holistic Pharmaceuticals
From raw materials to the packages on the shelf, Afriplex controls every step of its pharmaceutical journey.
Afriplex is a South African company established to develop and manufacture botanical extracts, complementary medicines and food & beverage product solutions.
“Afriplex has existed for 20 years as a pharmaceutical company and manufacturing practice. We have over 200 staff, including 40 scientists of different disciplines, and manufacture 250 pharmaceutical products primarily from botanical sources,” explains Danie Nel, CEO of Afriplex. “Our production is source-to-shelf. We take the supply chain from the induction and cultivation of plant materials right through to product formulation and final product manufacturing, delivering products to our customers that are ready to go onto shelves.”
When the company was established in 2001 its objective was to unlock the potential of traditional African botanical remedies. That goal has evolved into conceptualising novel complementary and alternative medicinal products for key clients, based on scientifically proven safety and efficacy data, manufactured and packed according to GMP quality standards.
Afriplex has, over two decades, developed a unique, all-encompassing approach to pharmaceutical production, giving them complete control of their products.
“We have the ability to provide the supply chain from source to shelf, the capabilities to develop products in-house,” Nel says. “The products we manufacture are unique products, we’re not in the commodity pharmaceutical market. The majority of products we manufacture, we develop ourselves.
Like most companies, Afriplex has faced its share of challenges in terms of logistics and the supply chain over the last year and a half. However, Nel points out that Afriplex’s biggest challenges are ongoing.
“Pre-Covid our main challenges were to get regulatory approval in jurisdictions around the world for our products,” Nel says. “Take Covid out of the equation, the regulatory framework worldwide, that’s the biggest challenge. The majority of our exports go into Europe, the Far East, Australia, there are a larger proportion of products in the export market.”
Each of these territories has its own regulations, its own governing bodies, and its own approval processes. Understanding those elements is critical to Afriplex’s ability to function as a business.
“The only way we can do that is select specific countries and understand their regulatory pathway to get approval for our products,” Nel says. “We need to understand if it is feasible for a specific country and go through the process of getting that regulatory approval. You need to engage with regulators and go through their process and get approval. There’s no shortcut.”
While it is true that there are no shortcuts, Nel is the first to admit Afriplex cannot do these things alone.
“Another way we mitigate these challenges is through partnerships. We have partners in those countries who can reformulate our products to meet specific requirements. These partnerships are very important for us,” Nel tells us.
A Hotbed of Talent
As well as partnerships with other businesses, Afriplex also values the partnerships within its own team. Among Afriplex’s many advantages is the fact that its business is based in a location rich in established and growing talent.
“We are in a very fortunate position. In South Africa, we are blessed with high availability of professionals in all disciplines, especially scientists,” Nel shares with us. “Where we are in Cape Town, we have a number of highly certified institutions and a high population of professionals available in the marketplace. Compared to other parts of Africa we are pleased to have those resources available. If I have to find another 30 scientists, we can find them.”
Of course, recruiting Grade A talent is only half the battle. That talent must also be nurtured and encouraged to continue its career within the company.
“In our company environment the type of projects we develop means we create an environment suitable for scientists, suitable for professionals,” Nel says. “It’s the kind of environment that they look for. So, it is not difficult for us to retain our staff and not too difficult to bring additional staff on board. The staff turn-over is minimal and in the last eight to ten years we’ve basically only added more heads instead of replacing them.”
A talent pool like that means that Afriplex can offer an extremely wide, yet innovative range of products and solutions. That range includes complementary and alternative medicines, but also extends into the food and beverage sectors.
This is where some of Afriplex’s most exciting new product ranges are currently being developed.
“We’ve introduced vegan milk and vegan cheese,” Nel explains. “It comes back to developing a novel product. That is a typical example where we look at ingredients and find ways and means to convert those ingredients into the basis of products such as cheeses. They have no dairy; we have developed and produced them by using an oat base. We’ve taken that vegan base to produce cheese and follow the same example for yoghurt, or any dairy product.”
This is just one example of the innovation that fuels Afriplex.
“With the whole Afriplex Group we have a number of operations along the supply chain,” Nel says. “We have farming operations, and various botanical offerings which are used in the different divisions of the company, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages. We have our own cultivation and development path for other botanicals.”
One botanical that has been growing in importance, particularly in the complementary and alternative medicines sector, is cannabis.
“Cannabis is going to play quite an important role for Afriplex in the future,” Nel tells us.
As well as growing their product range, and into new market sectors, Afriplex also intends to continue moving into new territories, using the time-honoured strategy of getting to know the local regulatory framework and selecting key partners to work alongside.
“The next step for us is to take our core competencies to other parts of the world,” Nel explains. “We have existing partners but want new participants, and we have the scale and portfolio within the Afriplex Group to achieve that.”