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Chekkit: The Nigerian blockchain startup protecting Africa against counterfeit pharmaceuticals

In Africa, an average person with a curious mind and sufficient cunning intellect in the pharmaceutical space can ingeniously mould a packet of flour or any suitable substance into a fake drug pill in such a manner that makes it virtually impossible to be flagged as fake by mere physical inspection. The World Health Organization(WHO) reports that 42 percent of all fake drugs reported to all WHO regions between 2013 and 2017, were from Africa

In 2018, two young Nigerians, Dare Odumade and Oluwatosin Adelowo, founded Chekkit Technologies to protect the world against the titanic influx of counterfeit medicines, particularly within Africa. The company was created with one major mission— verifying the safety of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. The startup’s solution combines a blend of cutting-edge technologies like AI and blockchain, not only positioned to solve the challenge of counterfeit drugs and consumer goods, but to also address supply chain inefficiency. 

The blockchain-powered platform provides unique identity labels for products via QR codes or PINs. These unique identity labels can be verified by consumers either by scanning it with the Chekkit app or via USSD. Thus, empowering consumers to be informed about the safety and authenticity of a drug or product before consumption. With data being a critical piece of the platform’s authentication technology, the startup strengthens data integrity through the use of a decentralized network which makes the data tamper-proof. 

The startup’s offerings are uniquely packaged with enticing incentives that are strategically put in place to attract wide usage. In reward for the feedback, location at the time of purchase/verification of a product, and other useful information obtained from consumers, the consumers get loyalty points or instant airtime. This encourages more consumers to use the platform for verification and also provide the necessary information. It is a win for both parties. Through Chekkit’s Customer Intelligence Product, manufacturers can also get notified of possible counterfeit versions of their products to encourage prompt action against the spread of such products.

Although the startup was created with a mission of combating counterfeit pharmaceuticals, their technology offers beyond that. The process of verifying the authenticity of products helps in the acquisition of customer data. The data obtained from these customers is also harnessed to provide the producers of these products with intelligent insights on consumer behaviour. This equips the manufacturers with a better understanding of their customers and their preferences, thereby enabling them make better data-driven decisions. The companies are guaranteed that their data will not be manipulated because the technology is built on blockchain. This guarantees optimum security. Helping manufactures of genuine pharmaceutical products understand their customers better can also influence the decline of counterfeit drugs within the African continent asides increasing the revenue of these companies.

Within the span of two years, the startup has experienced an accelerated growth pace that has drawn it closer to its mission of eradicating the consumption of counterfeit products. In September, Chekkit announced that it had secured a partnership with Fantom and the Afghanistan Ministry of Health for a 3-month pilot project that will involve the use of Chekkit’s product authentication technology to track and verify 80,000 pharmaceutical products sold in the Afghan market. This is a major step in the tackling of Afghanistan’s counterfeit challenge, and Chekkit is spearheading the movement.

Africa, in particular, has been a major market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals, but with Chekkit and other anti-counterfeit innovations and collaborations, this is about to change. Chekkit is set to disrupt the African pharmaceutical industry, and beyond. One step at a time, the startup is getting closer, each day, to providing an effective solution to the putrid but enormous counterfeit pharmaceutical market.


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