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Professional management support helps Cospharm map the road to bring more generics to southern Africa

Professional management support helps Cospharm map the road to bring more generics to southern Africa

Ten years from now, Cosmas Mukaratirwa wants to be a pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor of note sending his products to at least six countries in southern Africa. To get there, he realised his small outfit, Cospharm, needs a proper commercial structure. Hunting for opportunities to expand his entrepreneurial skills, he came across the Stanford Seed programme, offered in southern Africa in partnership with the De Beers Group.

Mukaratirwa is the Managing Director of Cospharm. It is his intention to expand his business from a small pharmaceutical distributor to a large manufacturer of generic medicine. His dream is to grow his current workforce of 82 individuals to at least 500.

In 2017 he applied to be accepted for the Stanford Seed programme, a one-year management development course for upcoming entrepreneurs launched last year in southern Africa by the De Beers Group of companies. He was accepted and started in January this year.

It started with an immersion week in January at an institution in Kenya where De Beers first partnered Stanford University in the seed programme for East and central Africa. Upon his return to Namibia, his first practical assignment started immediately in the form of a pre-workshop for about a month, applying the principles learned or discussed during the immersion week. During this time his management team was closely involved preparing the company to receive a Stanford facilitator for an intensive one-day assessment of Cospharm’s progress.

Repeat visits to Kenya in March and June further strengthened their successful participation in the seed programme.

Mukaratirwa, a pharmacist by profession, told the Economist he started Cospharm as a small pharmaceutical distributor in 2010. At the beginning of 2017 he realised his business has grown to a level where he considered enrolling for a post-graduate management course like an MBA. It was at that time that he first read about the Stanford Seed programme, and decided to apply for admission.

“This course helps me and my management team to design a transformation strategy that will take us ever closer to our goal of becoming a pharmaceutical manufacturer of note,” he said adding that Cospharm’s exponential growth since 2010 lead to the point where he had to consider looking for professional support to take them to even bigger achievements.

For the seed programme, he had to submit financials, staff profiles, a customer list and the company’s value proposition. He also had to pay the US$5000 enrollment fee, which he pointed out, was the only expense he incurred. All the rest is covered by the De Beers Group and some components are subsidised by Stanford.

Through their engagement in the seed programme this year, Mukaratirwa and his team are building a transformation strategy which they will then start implementing early next year after completing the course. His people are involved all the time in all aspects of the process. “This way, your management feels part and parcel of the organisation and of the intended transformation process,” he said.

At the end of the one-year programme, he can apply for a coach from Stanford for 20 hours per month. This cost is also covered by De Beers.

Cospharm is built on sourcing intellectual property licences from Asian manufacturers of generic medicine. Under the current arrangement, some 30 of these companies manufacture medicines for the Namibian distributor, branded for each of the jurisdictions where they are registered as distributors, – Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

“Regulatory approvals are very important. If generic medicines are not approved by the World Health Organisation and by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, it is almost impossible to penetrate new markets,” he said. This is where his experience as an R&D pharmacist at Varicham Pharmaceuticals, a WHO pre-qualified company based in Zimbabwe, helped him to chart the first years for Cospharm as a distributor of generics.

With his background, his technical expertise and his Stanford tools, Mukaratirwa is confident they will grow into a leading regional player in generics.

Photograph of Cosmas Mukaratirwa by Donald Matthys

The Stanford Seed Transformation Programme, southern Africa. The application period will run until 1st July 2018. To learn more about the program and apply, please visit


About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.