Pharm Okey Akpa, chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN) is a man of few words. Whenever he makes up his mind to talk, the taciturn pharmacist doesn’t mince his words. In this brief interview with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Akpa disclosed how the association, whose members have invested no fewer than US $44 million into factory expansion in Nigeria, has been grappling with economic recession as well as their plans for 2017.
How will you rate 2016 in terms of PMGMAN activities?
For PMGMAN (the respective local manufacturing companies that made up the association), the general consensus is that it is a challenging year for us. That is not saying anything new. We all know that the country is in recession. Inflation is on double digits. The national currency is weak compared to dollar and other international currencies. Government spending power has been highly restricted (compromised) and has gone down to the consumer level. The consumer purchasing power has gone very low. If you look at it carefully, you will realise that it has become a “Double Whammy.” Cost of production has gone up and you cannot transfer the increase in prices directly to the consumers in totality because there is weak purchasing power. Consequently business has been tough and challenging; margins are diminishing and actually disappearing in some instances. It is tough all round but we are hanging in there.
Businesses are reportedly folding up in many sectors. How is PMGMAN coping?
There is no gainsaying the fact that retrenchment is ongoing in the sector because capacity of production has dropped. To further show how low we have fallen, we are talking about the region of 35 to below 30 per cent. What that means is that we are not running at full capacity; some jobs have been lost, not to talk about no capacity to employ new ones. Yes, we are seriously affected too.
What can be done to aid development in local manufacturing sector?
It is difficult to give a single advice as it were now. What I can advise is that people should focus on only essentials and further seek how we can collaborate and leverage on each other’s capabilities more.
Is there any update on the perennial issue of Common External Tariff (CEF)?
Well, we are still hopeful that the issue of CET would be resolved very soon.
What should local manufacturers be looking forward to in 2017?
2016, as I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, was a very challenging year. That notwithstanding, I am an incurable optimist. I have a strong believe that 2017 will be better, by the Grace of God. We are quite optimistic that most of the measures being discussed and put in place now will begin to yield result by 2017; and then things will begin to look up. That is being highly optimistic