Industrial Ecosystems with Richmond Kwame FRIMPONG; The technology leverage for Africa’s pharma manufacturing


Today, digitalisation has fostered instant communication and helped facilitate speedy research, development and distribution of vaccines, demonstrating its importance to future pharma. Electronic prescriptions, telemedicine, remote monitoring for in-patient and geriatric care, wearables, and at-home testing kits are just a few of the ways tech is transforming healthcare.

Africa has a unique opportunity to utilise these advancements in technology and leapfrog the current infrastructure gaps affecting its pharmaceutical value chain to positively impact health outcomes on the continent. Connecting patients to responsive, resilient and adaptive supply chains is a unique feature that technology can bring to the pharma space.

Modern markets rely upon the distribution of highly commoditised products and services. In 2015, digitalisation was a top-three priority among pharmaceutical companies, and one that offered significant opportunities to improve outcomes in developing countries. It is estimated that by 2020, 20 percent of the world’s 2 billion mobile subscribers will be located in Africa. The surge in mobile penetration provides huge opportunities for engaging specific populations such as patients and healthcare providers via modern technology to improve their lives.

From generic drugs to complex biologics, pharma companies are looking for ways to efficiently deliver medicines and vaccines throughout the value chain. While digitalisation offers significant opportunities to improve the current state of pharmaceutical supply chains, the implementation of these solutions will require a cultural shift within pharma companies and collaboration with governments and other industry players.

The three main leverage anchors:

  1. Traceability: Proactive and real-time tracking of medicines could help avoid product recalls, improve market access, and enhance patient outcomes by reducing adverse events. The technological innovations driving this advance are advanced test kits, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, sensor technologies, and mobile applications.
  2. Predictability: Real-time data collection and monitoring can help improve supply chain efficiency, and enable better forecasting and planning by providing the data needed to make better tactical decisions regarding clinical trials, distribution planning, pricing and regulatory initiatives.
  3. Resilience: Saving time and money through technology will help level the playing field for Africa’s small businesses by removing barriers that prevent them from entering into complex value chains where competition is high.

Technology also allows for a more secure supply chain since it can keep track of drugs at every point in the chain in real-time. The tech sector is expanding throughout Africa. In the last two years, healthcare has grown at an annual rate of 19 percent, which is faster than any other industry in sub-Saharan Africa.

The technology industry can play a pivotal role in improving access to safe and affordable medicines in Africa by helping optimise healthcare systems and reduce costs. Africa is just beginning to invest in technology for development and has the chance to set itself apart from the rest of the world as it does so. The continent’s long-term success will depend on how it responds to these trends.

It’s clear that pharma can’t continue to operate as it did previously, solely focused on its traditional markets and practices. Instead, it must be open to new business models and broader collaborations to transform the delivery of medicines. With digitisation as the driving force behind Africa’s digital revolution, the continent is in a prime position to take advantage of these trends and unlock its full potential as a source of innovation, economic growth and development.

Bridging the medicine supply chain in Africa digitally by digitalising critical supply chain elements with technologies such as RFID tags, blockchain platforms and sensors can help improve access to medicines by making them more affordable.

There is indeed a significant opportunity for Africa to tap into the potential of technology to improve its pharmaceutical value chain. The continent is facing a number of challenges in terms of access to affordable and high-quality medicines, including issues related to supply chain management, regulatory compliance and data management. By leveraging technology, it is possible to address these challenges and improve the efficiency, effectiveness and overall performance of the pharmaceutical value chain.

One key area where technology can be used to improve the pharmaceutical value chain in Africa is through the implementation of digital solutions for the supply chain management. This can include the use of blockchain to track and trace medicines as well as digital platforms for inventory management and logistics. These solutions can help to improve transparency, reduce the risk of counterfeit drugs, and increase the speed and efficiency of the supply chain.

Another area where technology can be used to improve the pharmaceutical value chain in Africa is through the use of data analytics and machine learning. These tools can be used to gain insights into the demand for medicines as well as to improve forecasting and decision-making. Additionally, using technology – such as artificial intelligence or Natural Language Processing (NLP) – can help in the clinical diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Overall, by leveraging digital solutions, data analytics, and other advanced technologies, it is possible to address the many challenges faced by the continent, and to create a more efficient, effective and sustainable pharmaceutical value chain. Moreover, it is key to take note of trade or manufacturing spaces that possess the technological facilities to help create a more efficient and sustainable pharmaceutical value chain.

Securing industrial accommodation for pharmaceutical value chains and their operations is crucial for ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of the pharmaceutical industry. This includes finding and securing suitable buildings, warehouses and other facilities that can accommodate the specific needs of the industry, such as proper storage conditions, security and easy access to transportation and distribution networks.

West Africa’s Dawa Industrial Zone, located 25km east of Tema in Ghana, makes for a great reference in terms of the friendly business environment it provides for industries across sectors. The fully serviced industrial park offers convenience in industrial production with reliable infrastructure and transportation of goods and facilitation of trade activities.

One important aspect of securing industrial accommodation is creating a friendly business environment for the pharmaceutical industry. This can include providing tax incentives, streamlined regulatory processes, and access to skilled labour and other resources. Additionally, it is important for governments and local authorities to work closely with the pharmaceutical industry to address any infrastructure or transportation challenges and to provide support for research and development activities.

The writer is an award-winning financial advisory, trade and transformation consulting professional with almost two decades of enterprise leadership experience across EMEA.

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