Let's Talk about Health in Africa
Insights and analysis from leaders shaping public health in Africa to help you make sense of the issues.
Delighted to have joined Lenias Hwenda of Medicines for Africa and Dan Rosen of IMS Health on a panel at the recent PharmaAfrica conference in London. We enjoyed a lively discussion on ‘Trust’ and how to encourage the Public and Private sectors to work together in delivering essential medicines to communities across Africa.
In the broader context, the PharmaAfrica event seeks to bring together private sector manufacturers and distributors with academics and government agencies to network and explore the challenges of the Pharma industry across the continent of Africa.
It was good to hear from African manufacturers and distributors, and to compare and contrast this with my knowledge of 'Big Pharma' from the European and US perspectives, and the Governmental, Public Sector and International Donor/Aid perspectives.
Health access requires the combination of quality, service and price to be right - quality products, available to the patient, at an affordable price. Local industry has an important role to play in this - one that I feel has been historically under-estimated and potentially neglected by international organisations.
In order to move the health agenda forward, African nations have to start to break-away from their dependence on others. Progressive graduation from aid is already occurring. As part of this, Africa needs to develop, grow and sustain a vibrant health industry - in manufacturing, in distribution, in retail pharmacies and in public and private health clinics where patients can access treatments. This work needs to be done in collaboration – working supportively towards joint objectives between the private sector, local industry, national governments and regulators, international donors and aid organisations.
To succeed, quality of medicines is a given, it must be there and the investment needed to achieve this has to be made. Price and affordability matters, and the gap with Indian generic producers and the mark-ups and inefficiencies in the local distribution chains have to be addressed. But this is not enough to succeed.
Local businesses have to differentiate - they must offer something valuable, that their larger international competitors cannot easily bring to the table - a connectivity to their local markets that is unique and can become a key differentiator. I refer to this as ‘Service Response - or Agility’ - the ability to rapidly tailor products and services to your local market, to be driven and respond to commercial opportunity and demand much faster than any of your competitors. There is an immense value here from being local - one that should be recognised and valued by all.
Support may be needed to create and foster a vibrant, profitable and therefore sustainable local industry. International organisations have an important role to play here, to encourage the development and support to a platform for local businesses and in strengthening the position and purpose of regional associations.
If I had one thought to come out of the recent conference for the leaders of these African industries – “it’s time to lift your voices, shout louder and be heard”.
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