In recent times there have been renewed calls for the improvement of Africa’s healthcare sector especially in terms of quality medication and environmental protection. It has been observed, however, that more light is usually thrown on environmental care and leaving out the quality of medication. This gap prompted the search for answers to some questions as regards healthcare in Africa and the responsibility of these healthcare companies.
In an exclusive interview with Amazons Watch Magazine’s Eruke Ojuederie, the Chief Executive Officer Shalina Healthcare Limited, Shalina Virji, sheds some light of some of the approaches that set the company apart in the sector. Excerpt:
Tell us about Shalina Healthcare Limited, and your choice of the African market?
Our company has a long and proud history in Africa. We were established in 1982 in DRC, by our Founder and Chairman, Mr Shiraz Virji. He was a third-generation East African Indian, so the choice to focus on Africa as the base for starting the business was natural. We are now a leader in sub-Saharan Africa, which is one of the world’s fastest-growing Pharma end markets. The pharmaceutical markets in sub-Saharan Africa are uniquely set for long-term, sustainable high growth rates, driven by demographic, socioeconomic and political megatrends creating an opportunity unmatched anywhere else in the world.
What are some of your experiences in the past 20 years while doing businesses on African soil?
We have seen many changes since Shalina first started operating in Africa – some specific to individual countries, and some across the continent. One change common across the countries we operate in is an improvement in national drug legislation. Realistic and effective laws have been introduced and are continually being revised, in order to safeguard the health of the population. Quality has been core to Shalina since we started and as such strongly welcome these new regulatory environments.
Another change we’ve seen is the increased focus by individual countries on promoting foreign investment in order to increase employment, reduce poverty and enhance economic growth. This makes it easier and more appealing for companies like Shalina Healthcare to operate in Africa. For example, the recently established Agency for the Promotion of Investment and Export of Angola (APIEX) is an excellent body that is working well to incentive investors while driving the country’s growth.
What are some of the strategies employed in ensuring that your products present the best of qualities, and are also affordable?
We achieve quality products that are still affordable to the mass population, as we operate an end to end supply chain, from manufacturing through to last-mile distribution. This cuts out the middlemen and we are able to pass on these savings to our end customers while maintaining the highest quality standards.
Our supply chain starts with our manufacturing facility in India and buying centre in China. Our manufacturing plant is WHO-approved and we source only WHO-approved products in China, closely monitored by our own state-of-the-art quality control testing laboratories. Once the product is shipped to Africa, we manage our own clearing and warehousing so we can tightly control all aspects of the landed cost of our products. Lastly, unlike most pharmaceutical manufacturers, in our most important countries, we manage local sales in-house, giving us a key competitive advantage. We have 28 Shalina sales depots and nearly 250 local sales and marketing executives in SSA, promoting Shalina brands.
Shalina Healthcare Ltd practices a multicultural workforce across locations. Is there a particular ratio with which this is implemented?
Our policy is always to hire talent locally. Only if specific and specialist technical skills are not available then we will recruit ex-pats into the market to complement any skill gaps. Whilst doing this we also devise and conduct training courses so that knowledge gaps are reduced and the knowledge gets transferred. We are also beginning to see that the vast diaspora of Africans that left Africa and studied and worked in Europe and/or America are beginning to return to their home country and this is greatly helping to bring knowledge and skills back to the continent.
Healthcare in Africa is an aspect that requires a lot of attention, especially in recent times. How is Shalina Healthcare contributing to the improvement of healthcare in Africa?
The mission of Shalina Healthcare is to provide quality pharmaceutical products to the African continent that are affordable and available to those who need them most. We take huge pride in our Mission and are passionate about our business. We do this because lives are at stake and there is an ever-increasing need for affordable medicine that can be trusted and relied on.
We supply our customers with high-quality products. We achieve this by ensuring that the raw and packing materials that go into our finished product are sourced from reliable well-established manufacturers. In addition, the manufacturing factories that make our products adhere to world-class quality control processes.
We ensure our products are affordable by the general public. We achieve this by integrating our value chain. We have and will continue to forge strong and long-term partnerships with our suppliers in India and China. We also manage the supply chain through to the Shalina depot in each of our markets in Africa.
We make our products widely available. We achieve this by owning and operating a Shalina depot in every major city in each of our markets. This ensures that our products are always in stock, have deep penetration in the market and are sold at a fair price.
Are there any plans to utilize locally sourced materials in Africa for the production of these healthcare products?
We are proudly focused on Africa and are currently looking to expand our operations across the continent, including possibilities to increase local manufacturing.