Inesfly Africa : Eradicating Vector-Borne Diseases with Insecticide Paint by Michael Sjodin

Michael Sjodin talks about Inesfly Africa’s mission to bring effective, innovative and long-term vector control treatments to people living in areas affected by vector-borne diseases in order to improve their living and health conditions, as well as his vision for Inesfly to become the leading company in vector-control treatments in Africa in order to curve the infestation and create a healthy and safe environment.

Interview with Michael Sjodin, CEO of Inesfly Africa

Michael Sjodin, CEO of Inesfly Africa

What is your assessment of the sector in Africa?

We will be present in 22 countries in Africa this year. We are about to launch in the southern region with a base in South Africa, which will include countries like Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Angola. We will have another base in Kenya covering Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Ethiopia. We will also have a base in West Africa in Ghana which will include Burkina, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, and Gambia. We will also open a factory in Nigeria which is about to launch with a base in Lagos. The first batch will be produced in April of this year. The production now is mainly in Ghana. From April onwards, production will also happen in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian factory will only supply the Nigerian market.

What are the trends of the sector in Africa?

The expansion plan moving forward is to find people with the same vision and drive and passion that we have here at Inesfly Africa Ghana, to partner with being in charge of a country or a territory.

First of all, we need to define the sector we are in. What is our market? Are we in the technology sector? We infuse our microencapsulated technology in various products of ours. The main reason behind why we chose to come to Africa in the first place is because we believe in our vision, which is to reduce and ultimately eradicate vector borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, cholera, and so forth. One of our flagship products is paint. Now we must ask ourselves if we are in the paint industry or in insecticides? We choose to believe we are an insecticide company. The trends in the insecticide sector are positive because we know that the number of vector borne diseases, especially malaria, is increasing not decreasing year by year. We need to have more tools in the tool box. The tools we have available today are the IRS, indoor residual spraying, with insecticides like pyrethroids. We have pre-treated mosquito nets, coils, sprays, all these preventive methods that we have been using for decades. Four years ago, we introduced the new Inesfly microencapsulated technology. With this infused paint, a customer can benefit from this slow release mechanism of the insecticide for a period of two years. Using the paint, there is actually no need for you to also use the coils and sprays. If a household is using a pre-treated mosquito net, that is fantastic. But in order to be 100% safe, they should also use the paint, because when you are moving around inside your house, you are not taking the net with you. The net is all about when you are asleep. It is true that most of the malaria cases are contracted when a person is asleep, but you can also catch malaria while you are awake, while you are washing your dishes, while watching TV, while playing a game with your child, and so forth. In order to be 100% safe or even safer, you should use the paint, use the IRS, and use the mosquito net while asleep.

Do you have competition?

It depends on the product. We have a few competitors in the insecticide paint market. But if you read the reports done by the WHO (World Health Organization), head to head comparison trials with Inesfly insecticide paint to other so-called insecticide paints, there is no paint that is close to the efficacy of Inesfly insecticide paint.

Why is this?

It is all about the technology. There is more than twenty years’ research put into one bucket of Inesfly paint. You and I can go to the market today and buy one randomly picked paint bucket and then we can take some insecticide and pour it in the paint bucket and stir and apply. Now, you have created a mosquito paint, but it would only last a matter of minutes. The secret is to have this insecticide in very small bubbles, which will give a controlled release over time.

Do you worry that with new competitors, it will be easy to copy you?

No, because it is a worldwide patent technology. Second of all, it is impossible to backwards engineer the microencapsulate technology. The “secret source” so to speak comes straight from Inesfly, Valencia, Spain, where we import the microencapsulate technology. Everything is manufactured locally here in Ghana, where we also infuse the technology into the products. It is similar to Coca Cola. No one knows the recipe besides a few members in the upper management team inside the Coca Cola corporation.

With regard to insecticide, how do you see the competition growing? What are the trends?

It is a growing trend because every day we can read in the newspaper or go online and see the increasing numbers of the malaria burden in Ghana, West Africa, and the entire sub Saharan region. We need to find more tools to prevent contracting malaria in the first place and find new methods to cope once diagnosed. Also, the whole economic burden on the country is quite significant because you lose manpower. You lose efficiency when you cannot work because you have malaria. You might need to take four to five days off and you might not be able to generate the income you were supposed to in order to feed your family. It is not only about the disease itself, it is also about the economic burden on a country.

This is almost a CSR aspect of the company in that you are reducing the disease and helping the economy to be sustainable. Do you have studies or figures that can illustrate this aspect?

Unfortunately, no. We rely on statistics coming from WHO, but Inesfly does not have any economic or microeconomic take on what impact there is for example in using the paint together with the mosquito net or without. We definitely will improve the burden if we can embrace and also create closer collaboration together with other stakeholders with the same objectives.

Are there areas in Africa that are more affected than others, where it is very important for you to develop your products?

There are some specific areas in Chad and Congo where they have a higher prevalence of mosquitos and malaria. But the whole sub-Saharan region is affected, with a few exceptions in north Namibia, the border between South Africa, and Mozambique where there are less mosquitos. In general, it is a huge burden for humankind.

How have you decided to develop yourself? Is it through partnership with other companies? What is your growth strategy?

The expansion plan moving forward is to find people with the same vision and drive and passion that we have here at Inesfly Africa Ghana, to partner with being in charge of a country or a territory. That is why we chose to partner with one entity with a base in South Africa who will be in charge of the southern region. We also chose to partner with another entity with a base in Kenya who is going to be in charge of the eastern corridor. Most of the countries in West Africa will be handled from Ghana, with the exception of Nigeria. In Nigeria we will have a partner and also a factory and subsequent factories handling the Nigerian market.

Are you still looking for partners?

We are. In Ghana, we need more partners in terms of distribution, wholesaling, end sales people, shop owners, convenience store owners and mom and pop store owners, and so forth. Now, the range of products such as our floor cleaner or body spray can be found at close to 5,000 points of sales in Ghana. We need to have an even better reachable coverage to be even more convenient for people to find our products. The aim is to be present in 10,000 outlets by the end of this year.

Ghana is a big share of your market and of your sales. How much does Ghana represent for the company?

As of now, we are fully-fledged present in Ghana, Congo, Cameroon, and we will be present in 22 countries by the middle of this year. It still takes some time to have the local authorities and the certificates in order for us to export products and for our partners to import the same. For instance, we have just received this morning a certificate from Uganda, saying that now we are up and running and able to begin. We received a similar certificate last week from Rwanda. At different times, we have new certificates trickling in which means that we can start operations in that country.

Do you develop this partnership yourself or does that partner do this in the regions?

Mainly, the partner will be in charge, as is the case in Uganda. However, the setup here in Inesfly Africa Ghana is a supportive setup. We are not simply sending a container across and then we sit back and relax. We are going to support, we are going to share our best practice, we are going to be there for important meetings, we are going to be extremely supportive for the man on the ground in Uganda to enable him to succeed.

What is your competitive advantage? For example, how is service important for your company?

Service for us is very important. For example, in the presales mechanism, we are always together with the distributor when it comes to registering the products in the specific country. Once that is done, we have a fully-fledged technical aspect which means that we need to train the local reps in the country in technology. We also need to understand the variances in the country on a local level in order for us to be able to disclose best practices. Something functioning very well in Ghana may not be functioning very well in Cameroon. We also need to factor in the francophone culture to the anglophone culture which means that, for example, we can share best practice from Senegal to Cameroon because both of these countries are francophone countries, so we can take the same ad we are using in Cameroon to Senegal. It is all about being the spider in the web trying to get as much information as possible and spread the word.

What is your current priority as the head of Inesfly in Ghana?

The priority here is to be seen as the number one partner when it comes to decreasing the number of vector borne diseases in Ghana. This is highly tangible as well with the other countries. But we also need to appreciate the fact that we need to take it step by step. It will take some time. We need more and closer relationships to the other stakeholders with the same objectives and the same aim.

How do you collaborate and interact with the Ministry of Health, donors, etc.? What would you like to achieve with them? Do you have a message for them?

We did a quite large CSR activity with the Ghana Health Service in the same period last year. We identified ten CHPS compounds in the greater Accra region which were in the greatest need of refurbishment. We saw with the Director General of Ghana Health Service that they needed changes. The conditions the staff were working in and the environment for the patients were quite poor. In coordination with the Ghana Health Service, we performed paint services at these ten CHPS compounds. We repainted them in March and April of last year and then we did a follow up survey after eight months. After we had done the painting work, there were no mosquitos, no wall geckos, no cockroaches, and no flies. We not only created a healthier environment for the staff but also for the patients. We used this study to approach UNAID because UNAID is the financer with the funds available for doing the same with the rest of the CHPS compounds nationwide in Ghana and is also involved when constructing new ones. We now have an ongoing dialogue with UNAID. When there is a need for the construction of a new CHPS compound, they will most likely use Inesfly paint. We have similar discussions with Infanta Malaria, which is chaired by the first lady of Ghana, also with the Minister of Health, with the National Malaria Control Programme, and so forth.

What is the challenge that you would like to solve to develop your company?

One of the major challenges is that we are introducing a new technology that we know is going to take some time to be appreciated because we know that families, households, people have been using coils and sprays for decades. Now, suddenly, we are asking these people not to use what they have used in the past, but to embrace new technology that sometimes can be seen as too good to be true. We have lots of testimonials, we have done lots of schools, churches, hospitals, with fantastic results but it will take some time to take these results and all these testimonials to transform the mass market. It also has to do with the affordability. If I can afford to buy a coil today for 10 Ghana cedis, maybe I cannot afford to buy a bucket of paint for 200 Ghana cedis. At the same time, I am fully aware, and I understand that buying a bucket of paint today is going to be more cost effective over the two years.

Project yourself in the medium term, three years, if everything goes according to plan, where will you be in Ghana?

Inesfly in the next three years will hopefully have a partnership and close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the National Malaria Control Programme, UNAID, USAID, the World Bank, and hopefully we will see the same with the rest of the countries in the African continent. The Inesfly product range will be an added tool in the toolbox. According to the latest data from WHO, we know that there is an increased number of diseases and mortalities in Ghana due to malaria. So, we can understand that only using the pre-treated mosquito nets is not enough. We need more tools and Inesfly insecticide paint is a fantastic tool to add.


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