Herbal medicine; despised but profitable

Mayanja (C) discusses with professors from the University of New Mexico during a herbal research tour in the USA recently. Courtesy Photo.

What you need to know:

Running through a generation of more than five decades, Bamutasa has made a mark in the herbal business industry.

In the centre of Kampala, where it all happens is where you meet Dauda Mayanja, one of the proprietors of the Bamutasa Herbal Medicine chain.

The outlet located at Kalungi Plaza on William Street is busy and tells of how Bamutasa has redefined a business that is associated with a lot of misconceptions.

The business seems to enjoy a great deal of fortune but when asked about why people associate herbal medicine with witch doctors, Mayanja is quick to go on the defensive, telling this reporter that this is the fallacy that some Ugandans live with but will disappear with some little bit of sensitisation.

Over the years Uganda’s herbal business has been registering some growth; however, it has been bedeviled with quacks who have tarnished the industry. According to the 2010 World Health Organisation report, at least 80 per cent of Ugandans rely on herbal medicine as the main source of treatment.

And from the above percentage Bamutaasa, has a commendable percentage, which explains the busy allure at most of the business’ clinics or outlets. Bamutaasa, as Mayanja says has an assembled team of experienced pharmacists and physicians who conduct research on the effectiveness of any particular product before it is put on the market.

The business has a number of capabilities complete with laboratories and well-trained attendants. According to Mayanja, his team ensures proper diagnosis of patients as well as putting in place precautionary measures before administering any form of treatment.

“We give medication based on results from samples, thus we do not work on second guessing or speculative diagnosis.”

The start
Bamutasa as a business has passed through a generation of more than five decades changing hands within relatives and family members.

Currently the business has eight directors with four outlets that employ about 40 people including suppliers and marketers. The business has a monthly turnover of about Shs7 million and more than Shs80 million per annum.

On a good day, according to Mayanja, the four outlets can work on about 40 patients; however, this has been achieved through sensitisation.

Mayanja, one of the directors, is a graduate of Human Herbal medicine that he acquired through a correspondence course in China.

His generational experience combined with that from China has been a great recipe for the business in terms of research.

This has been boosted further by various correspondences with reputable herbal researchers including Green World in China and the University of New Mexico in the USA.

However, as Mayanja says, the business has not been without challenges. Firstly, he says the government has failed to provide a legal framework to guide herbalists in Uganda.

This, according to him has made even those who are genuinely in the business seem as if they are operating illegally because they don’t have guiding principles upon which they operate their businesses. Additionally, Mayanja says, the cost of business continues to rise, yet access to credit is hard to come by.

Future plans
According to Mayanja, the business plans to acquire land and construct a research facility that can train people as well as develop concepts for growing herbal medicine.

This, Mayanja believes can be achieved through concerted efforts that will involve the government as well as looking at herbal medicine as a profitable business.

For instance, according to Mayanja, China generates over $48 billion from herbals medicine, which is consumed globally.