It is no longer news perhaps that the worth of Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry is a paltry estimate of about $1.3bn – accounting for less than 0.25 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At least this much was allualded to by Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), at the recently held 90th Annual Conference of the Society in Umuahia, Abia State, last November. This is a rather disturbing picture of a nation as richly endowed as Nigeria, on the premise that Nigeria, assuming the part of a leading light, has as much as over 150 pharmaceutical manufacturers registered!
But the country, nay West Africa, and indeed the entire continent are ripe for harvest, and we do not seem to be awake to that great opportunity that beckons. Nigeria therefore needs to make conscious efforts to increase local production of drugs; it has more than enough potentials to make that happen. And then, the country can actually become a hub for pharmaceutical production on the continent.
Our pharmaceutical practice and industry is, and ought to be expanding systematically. There is also need for diversification, integration, innovation, as well as concerted partnership going on with allied industries, like in science and technology, capacity building, regulatory and consumer protection matters. All of these invariably will lead to the entrenchment of a vibrant and competitive economy.
The global pharmaceutical industry has become a major contributor to the world economy; this should also be the case in Nigeria, West Africa and indeed Africa. In 2012, total world pharmaceutical market was worth an estimated $857 billion which translates to two times the total GDP of Nigeria, which ranks as the largest economy on the African continent.
While the United States and Canada remained the world’s largest market with 41 per cent share, Africa and Asia (excluding Japan) contributed just 14.7 per cent, with Latin America coming at the rear with 5.9 per cent. On critical observation it becomes clear that the contribution from sub-Saharan Africa is just a mere $8-$10 billion which is even less than 2 per cent of the total world drug market.
As it is, the opportunity is very ripe in Africa and by implication, for Nigeria. It just has to become that major economic hub in the near future, and the country must be set to pluck and eat. The attention of the world will be focusing on the continent, and with increasing wealth and healthcare demands rising, with needs for drugs, experts predict that by 2020 this market will exceed $45 billion.
If the United Nations (UN) calculation that foreign direct investment (FDI) could double within about three years, coupled with the African urban population explosion, the onus then rests on Nigeria to utilise her huge potentials to its greatest advantage. As Africa continues to develop her economic strength, giving rise to a growing middle class, there will be a corresponding increase in demand for drugs to take care of chronic diseases and non-communicable diseases across the continent. But as things are, the big manufacturers from Indian and China have taken a big chunk of the African drug market, using competitive pricing and focus on generics. This gap, Nigeria is supposed to comfortably fill.
In West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana represent the rising stars in the pharmaceutical industry. Whereas Ghana has about 30 registered pharmaceutical manufacturing firms, Nigeria now has about 150 registered pharmaceutical companies. But local production in both countries has gone down to around 20-30 of total consumption, which means a lot of growth is possible. But for now, more than 80 per cent of pharmaceutical needs in the country is imported from foreign lands – mainly China and India.
As West Africa looks up to Nigeria’s leadership in the Pharmaceutical trade and the minimisation of substandard products, the country invariably stands at a vantage position to exploit the gaping terrain and harvest the open field. The West and Central African Markets should rather become the new frontier and playground for the Nigerian pharma industries, having shored up their GMP status. This also makes them fully equipped to satisfy the regulatory requirements of the majority of other African countries and even beyond the continent.