COVID-19 Downturn: Azoji Suggests Survival Strategies for Pharma Industry

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– Says his vision is to move Neimeith to greater heights

COVID-19 Downturn: Azoji Suggests Survival Strategies for Pharma Industry
Pharm. Matthew Azoji, managing director/CEO, Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc

To keep the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry afloat and committed to its obligations, despite the harsh economic conditions caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are essential strategies that government and other stakeholders in the industry must adopt, Pharm. Matthew Azoji, managing director/CEO, Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc, has said.

Azoji, in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews, tasked the federal government on the extension of the executive order to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods to pharmaceuticals, provision of low interest rates loan to local pharma manufacturers, optimisation of Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) to boost local manufacturing, as well as provision of constant power supply and qualitative road networks, among others.

He noted that the Nigerian pharma industry will be the bride of its African counterparts, if government can be genuinely committed to its growth and development, for national medicine security to be a reality in the country.

The Neimeth boss, who graduated with first class honours in Pharmacy, with over three decades experience in the industry,  expatiated on the need for government as the biggest buyer of medicines to patronise made-in-Nigeria drugs, which he said will boost sales of locally-made medicines in no small measure.

He said: “Being the biggest buyer of medicines, government can deliberately make a policy that they will always patronise local products. They can only buy imported medicines if there are no quality locally manufactured alternative brands in Nigeria. The executive order to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods has not been extended to pharmaceuticals.

“The government should sign an executive order that medicines and other health commodities that are made in Nigeria are on priority list of purchase in Nigerian public hospitals. That is a way of creating adequate market for local pharmaceuticals. If the government is buying from local manufacturers, this will boost their capacity”, he stressed.

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Azoji further elucidated on the optimal use of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) for the benefit of indigenous pharma companies, saying once the agreement is signed, the African market will become centralised and the Nigerian pharma industry can become the commercial hub, if it is adequately financed to supply the medicine needs of other African countries.

He however warned that the agreement could also be a threat to the nation, if the government fails to empower the industry, as it could become a dumping ground for countries to bring in all sorts of products.

“One of the things the government can do to support the local manufacturing industry is to take full advantage of Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA) which was expected to take off in July this year but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been shifted to January 2021.

“When that agreement takes off, it will make the Africa market to be one. That means other African countries can supply medicines to Nigeria. If Nigeria does not have the capacity to produce competitively, it means Nigeria may become a dumping ground”, he stated.

While applauding the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for its release of 100 billion naira intervention fund for, pharmaceutical companies “local production”, he reiterated the call for more of such funds to be provided to revamp the sector, adding that this explains why the PMGMAN has been clamouring for a loan of 300 billion naira to enable the pharma industry develop itself so that it can produce competitively.

Having highlighted success strategies for the industry, Azoji zero in on his vision for Neimeth, saying his primary goal is to move the organisation to greater heights.

He said: “Since I came, the Board has approved a five-year plan and the vision of Neimeth has changed. The new vision statement is “To be a leading innovative healthcare provider out of Africa” and our new mission is: “To promote healthy confident living”.

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“The new executive management in Neimeth met a good company, but our vision is to move Neimeth from a good company to a great company. To attain this vision, we have set out a lot of milestones and I believe they will be realised. Already we have started on a good note. Just last year, we won the Pearl Award for excellent performance in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. We also won the Top 25 Business Award from Business Day, and we are sure of others”, he stated.

Azoji also said that being a visionary organisation, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been one of the core values of Neimeth, stressing that this explains its introduction of different initiatives for the benefit of the people in its immediate environment.

“You would have probably heard about what we call FITGFAH – Fight the good fight against hypertension. That is one of the programmes of Neimeth to enable people identify hypertension early in life, by offering free hypertension screening and blood sugar test and treatment. There are other CSR programmes offered by Neimeth in line with one of our core values as a company – focusing on the community”, he explained.

The Neimeth boss further noted some of the company’s efforts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, to flatten the curve, such as the provision of information to people in their community on personal hygiene, the donation of personal hygiene products to the Lagos State ministry of Health, and the launch of an awareness campaign on the prevention of the coronavirus disease, in partnership with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) by donating public enlightenment kiosks.

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