Ghana Medical Sector: Africano Health to Expand its Manufacturing Base as Part of Agenda 111

Mohamed Elkaliouby shares his assessment of the healthcare sector in Ghana and talks about recent changes and developments to the medical sector since the pandemic started. He also gives an overview of Africano Health, a company specialized in supplying medical furniture and equipment, and shares his projects and vision for the future of the sector and company.

Interview with Mohamed Elkaliouby, Africa Representative at Africano Health

Mohamed Elkaliouby, Africa Representative at Africano Health

What is your assessment of the healthcare sector in Ghana?

In the last two years since the pandemic started, everything about health service has changed. Many people think the healthcare sector is not very important, but the pandemic has shown us that thinking is wrong. From 2019 until now, countries around the world have started to change their strategies to deal with healthcare. In Ghana, it is called Agenda 111. The government manages it, it is between the Minister of Health and the W.H.O (World Health Organization), and is aimed at building 111 hospitals in Ghana. That number is probably very high, but when you compare the country’s population with how many beds there are in the country, it is crazy because it is something like one bed for every 100,000 people. During the pandemic, it was hard trying to find a bed for someone who needed to be hospitalized. This project will start in two or three months and the timeline for completion will be between one year and 18 months because all the hospitals will be single-story buildings. Heavy equipment will not be needed because we only use X-Ray and ultrasound equipment. This project will bring Ghana up to date from maybe 15 years ago because there will be an extra 20,000 beds added to the health service.

Is this a new round of building hospitals following the initial phase that started in 2018?

Yes. We delivered nine hospitals in that time frame. We are now trying to bring in some investors to invest in the medical sector in Ghana.

What kinds of projects are you working on?

The Agenda 111 is focused on building six regional hospitals and the rest will be district hospitals. One is a teaching hospital in Kumasi. It will include a medical teaching university and a nurse university. We are one of the four or five companies that will start the six regional hospitals as part of this project. The bed count will be 4,200. The other district hospitals will have between 100 and 150 beds each.

Can what you are doing be replicated anywhere else other than Ghana?

We hope to do so. Before the pandemic, we had already had some meetings with Health Ministers in Senegal and Sierra Leone and what we are trying to do now is apply our experience from the Ghana project there. With support from the W.H.O. and other African countries, we have contacted the World Bank about getting some financial assistance for these projects.

How is Africano Health different to your competitors and what are your competitive advantages?

We started in 2014 and we were a regular trader that imported products such as office furniture and supplied them in Ghana. There were a lot of challenges, so we had to be flexible, starting with the products themselves. We have changed materials that we used to get from Turkey because they did not suit the weather in Ghana. Things used to get rusty. Now, after eight years, we have the necessary experience. We currently have 25 projects running in Ghana between hospitals and head offices of companies, to which we supply office furniture. We also supply medical doors to the hospitals we are working on. Next year, we may also start to manufacture some furniture items in Ghana. Due to supply chain issues, we want to avoid shipping delays which can be up to four or five months. We will start with selected items.

What kinds of items are you considering?

We need to start by getting certifications for machinery that we will need to use for our sutures factory. It has been difficult because airports were closed, and we were not able to invite anyone from outside to give us their certification. In the last six months, we have been able to start getting validation certificates, our health certificate, FDA certification, and we started production about two months ago. We chose sutures because around the world you will find about 50 factories that are certified. It is complicated because everything needs to be compatible with whatever you can import. It has been challenging to get machines and servicing for the machines in Ghana, but now we are going very well on this one. Because we are using sterilization machines, we need to import machines with a big capacity. That is why we are thinking about the second phase of the factory for syringes. We will need between 50 and 60 million syringes per year, and they will all be imported from outside of Ghana, so we are looking at the end of this year before we can start production.

What is your international reach at the moment?

In the last three years, under an Equus agreement between certain countries, if you produce anything in Ghana, Nigeria or Côte d’Ivoire, you can deliver products to them without having to pay duty. Because countries depend on imports, you can agree on good prices. Our market research shows that our products are between 50% and 75% less than competitive products. That is why we think manufacturing in Africa is the best solution to deal with the pandemic and shipping challenges.

What is your vision in the medium-term?

Since 2020, everyone has developed future plans for their products and has been reviewing how they will approach business after the pandemic. We know that in the next five years, the medical and food sectors will need to overcome supply shortages. Because we are in the medical sector, our plan is to have a very large base of manufacturing in Ghana so that we can supply all the neighboring Equus countries. We think our projects in Ghana this year have been successful, even though we have had to deal with sourcing issues, and we now want to try to do the same in other countries like Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. In the next five to seven years, the world will be concentrating on the medical sector.


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