News @ JSI

Online Platform Modernizes Ethiopia's Import Permit Process

October 23, 2017

Addis Ababa - John Snow, Inc. (JSI) launches i-Import, a new online platform to track all pharmaceutical import applications and approvals made by Ethiopia’s pharmaceutical regulator, the Food, Medicine and Healthcare Administration and Control Authority (FMHACA).

i-Import is the first module released as part of an integrated platform for pharmaceutical regulation that JSI is developing with FMHACA. The new system will provide regulators with real-time visibility into the import permitting process.

The platform is being developed with funding from USAID’s AIDSFree Project and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This work also supports the Federal Ministry of Health’s strategy for an information revolution in the sector as part the new Health Sector Transformation Plan.

“Building modern, integrated data systems is critical to strengthen Ethiopia’s pharmaceutical regulatory system,” said Paul Dowling, JSI’s Ethiopia Country Director. "This new platform will enable real-time data visibility and help ensure that only high quality, effective medications reach patients across Ethiopia.”

“With i-Import, we have the ability to see which importer, private or public, has submitted applications for permits at any given moment along with the status of each application,” commented Ato Yehulu Denekew, Director General, Ethiopian Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration and Control Authority.

“It also electronically integrates with procurement data from PFSA, the procurement and supply arm of the the Ministry of Health and by far the country's largest importer of pharmaceuticals. The system helps us to manage the flow of applications and reduces the amount of time it takes for us to review and approve import permits.”

“We are proud to support Ethiopia’s efforts to develop its electronic information infrastructure for pharmaceutical regulation, and i-Import is an important step in that process,” Dowling continued. “This work dovetails with our MIS support for the supply chain allowing for data exchange, and synergies and, in the future, integrated systems.”

The system streamlines the approval process for both FMHACA and pharmaceutical importers, who will now submit applications for import approvals electronically. With i-Import, managers can delegate individual applications to specific staff members to better manage staff workloads and monitor approval times. Both FMHACA and importers can track the status of permits in real time. And clearly-designed dashboards provide regulators with actionable information on applications, trends over time, and breakdowns of approved permits by port and payment mode.

i-Import is the first module to be released under FMHACA’s new integrated platform. Both i-Import and the future broader regulatory platform leverage the same Master Database as the nation’s largest medication procurer, the Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA). PFSA is a sister agency within Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health responsible for procuring health commodities for public health facilities. By integrating the data across both systems, i-Import will lead to an immediate improvement in data consistency and quality and will allow data to flow automatically between PFSA and FMHACA. For example, in the past, import approvals for PFSA purchase orders required hard-copy forms be sent between the agencies, often resulting in lost paperwork and weeks-long delays in the approval process. With the launch of i-Import, however, as soon as PFSA places a purchase order, the data syncs to i-Import and FMHACA can begin its approval process. More detail on the broader ERIS and JSI’s background working with FMHACA and PFSA is available here.

JSI and FMHACA plan to launch a mobile version of i-Import within the next month. This will allow customs inspectors to access the system on mobile devices at ports of entry to check the approval status of medication consignments, further extending system visibility.