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Imperial Unjani Clinics: transforming healthcare, empowering women, creating jobs

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Imperial Unjani Clinics: transforming healthcare, empowering women, creating jobs

Almost 90% of South Africa’s population relies on the country’s under-resourced public healthcare system, which is further burdened by many patients who have insufficient knowledge to self-medicate or who seek healthcare from the incorrect levels within the system. 

In recognition of this dire need, Imperial became the first private sector organisation in South Africa to start a nurse-owned and operated primary healthcare network. To date, Imperial has invested a significant R25 million and the current network of 25 Unjani Clinics have served in excess of 145 000 patients. Imperial plans to establish a national network of 400 Unjani Clinics in the next five years.

Says Dr Iain Barton, Imperial Group Business Development Executive: Healthcare, “Unjani Clinics meet the need for primary healthcare in poor communities by providing essential medicines and education at the point of need. In addition, the initiative empowers black women by creating entrepreneurial opportunities for professional nurses to own and operate commercially viable primary healthcare clinics.”

Barton explains, “Patients pay approximately R180 for a consultation with a qualified nurse, and receive medicines to treat a range of common primary healthcare conditions.  The qualified nurse running the Unjani Clinic is authorised to dispense schedule 1 to 4 drugs. The clinics also sell over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and various cough and flu medication.” 

Barton adds that healthcare is better organised and supported in suburban areas compared to informal settlements and rural areas, where so many people cannot access primary healthcare due to time, cost and distance. “There is an urgent need for transformation in South Africa’s health system,” he stresses, “and Unjani Clinics are a much needed part of the solution.” 

Unjani Clinics are in line with the UN mandate of empowering women fighting diseases like AIDS and TB and improving maternal health. The business model is a financially sound commercial opportunity that is empowering women and creating jobs. The ownership model sees the professional nurse increasing her ownership share annually, based on a franchise agreement with Imperial. Further employment opportunities are created due to the need for administration support staff at the clinic, as well as cleaners and other service providers. Each clinic creates between three and five sustainable jobs, and produces real, localised, enterprise development that empowers women.

Barton says, “Unjani Clinics provide the under-served, lower income communities with an affordable, accessible and quality healthcare alternative and offer real potential to improve healthcare outcomes in South Africa.”

Imperial, through its healthcare business:

  • Delivers life-saving medicine to HIV/AIDS programmes in 30 countries
  • Operates in more than 30 countries in Africa, including Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa
  • Specialises in multi-channel solutions for delivering essential medicines and consumer health products.
  • Provides logistics, supply chain and distribution solutions to pharmaceutical and fast moving consumer health industries


Dr Iain Barton 
Currently the Imperial Group Business Development Executive for Healthcare, Dr Iain Barton previously held the position of Managing Director of Imperial Health Sciences. Having spent ten years in medical practice and more than a decade in healthcare supply chain management, Iain’s unique skill set matches well Imperial’s core values of international standard service and customer focus.

Iain’s experience in Global Health and Development strategy - and specifically his involvement in the origination and operations of the supply chain management system (SCMS) for the US Government’s PEPFAR initiative - likewise provide a secure foundation for Imperial’s African business development plans.