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Stakeholders Lament Challenges Confronting Transportation of Medicines Across Africa

By Eric Ojo

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Stakeholders in the Life Sciences, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industry in Africa have expressed their worry over the inherent challenges in the transportation of medicines across the African continent.

Key players in the healthcare supply chains and other actors in the sector are confronted with manifold challenges that are inadvertently hindering growth and development of the sector.

Meanwhile, Africa commands a huge market with high potential for life sciences and healthcare companies. The value of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry alone, according to a recent report, jumped to $20.8 billion in 2013 from just $4.7 billion a decade earlier, and will be worth $40 billion to $65 billion by 2020.

The report also added that between 2013 and 2020 prescription drugs are forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6 per cent in Africa, generics at per cent, over-the-counter medicines at 6 per cent, and medical devices at 11 per cent respectively.

In addition, as growth in developed markets stagnates, companies in the life sciences and healthcare market are increasingly looking for growth in Africa and this is why it has become imperative for stakeholders in the sector to strategize and adopt smarter strategies in order to operate successfully across the continent.

This was the agenda and focus of participants at the 5th annual DHL Regional Life Sciences and Healthcare conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa last week. The conference also deliberated on the latest trends, innovations and solutions impacting the Life Sciences supply chain, with a specific focus on Africa as a region with high growth potential.

Speaking at the event which was attended by representatives from leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, Andrew Mitchell, President Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Life Sciences and Healthcare at DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation, affirmed that when it comes to transporting medicines across Africa, there are many common challenges that the industry experiences.

Mitchell said some of the challenges include, ensuring temperature-controlled environments in accordance to Good Distribution Practice regulations, cost efficiency, trade compliance and regulations, and innovation for continuous improvement, of which all are key to success.

“We wanted to address changes affecting our industry at the conference, and discuss how the industry can adopt the best supply chain strategies to capitalize on Africa’s growth potential and achieve regulatory compliance,” he added.

Also speaking at the event, Hennie Heymans, Managing Director of DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, observed that logistics has long been considered a key supporting function within the life sciences sector, noting that its importance is however rapidly growing in Africa due to the increasing relevance of pharmaceuticals in emerging markets.

Heymans also noted that there are various trends that are shaping the sector and he cited urbanization as one of such factors. DHL, according to him, anticipates pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to expand their capabilities into major African cities, eventually to emerging cities and even rural areas, and that with this, there will be various approaches to distribution and logistics.

He further explained that e-commerce is also fundamentally transforming the supply chains for business-to-consumer (B2C), over the counter (OTC) life sciences markets, such as cosmetics, vitamins, contact lenses and nutrition, as well as business-to-business (B2B) markets, such as diagnostics and lab supplies.

“It is believed that life science manufacturers will build up more direct-distribution channels to the end consumer, and will either develop their own e-commerce operations or distribute their products via third-party platforms”, he stressed.

He however pointed out that the changes within the market and decentralised supply chains will lead to new transportation routes, adding that in certain parts of Africa, supply and distribution chain mechanisms still pose challenges, which range from inadequate or undeveloped infrastructures to a country’s specific regulations.

“Due to more complex supply chains, policy makers worldwide are enforcing stricter regulations for manufacturing and logistics, and customs clearance times and potential regulatory delays can influence a product’s ability to reach a laboratory or customer”, he further stated.

Heymans also maintained that for pharmaceutical and medical device manufactures to gain a competitive advantage in Africa they need to have the ability to innovate and adapt to new regulatory standards and the distribution requirements of products.

“Providers wanting to capitalise on the continent’s growth in this market should seek to partner with local providers who are able to successfully implement and manage complex supply chains while navigating the continent’s complex markets and challenges”, he advised.


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