During a recent interview which was monitored by Pharmanews, Registrar of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, Pharm. (Dr) NAE Mohammed made a poignant observation that echoed the concerns of every other stakeholder in the Nigerian pharmaceutical landscape. According to him, “The Nigerian pharmaceutical sector today is still very much import-dependent, which is a threat to the security and health of Nigerians. Because of that we need a revolution to make us look inward and be able to have total control over the pharmaceutical landscape of this country.”
This much anticipated “revolution” seems to be rapidly coming to manifestation with the recent unveiling of West Africa’s premier pharmaceutical park in Ebonyi State. This landmark initiative, modelled along Alfred Weber’s celebrated theory of industrial location, is a brainchild of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP), led by Pharm. Ignatius Anukwu and Bloom Public Health, led by Professor Chimezie Anyakora. According to a statement released by the initiators, the Pharmacity project was conceived to tackle the existing challenges of infrastructure, high cost of manufacturing and revolutionise indigenous drug manufacturing. They added that the park is categorized into five zones – namely, the industrial zone, the shared services zone, the supply services zone, the games and recreation zone and the residential zone.
Altogether, the park is projected to provide, among other features, state-of-the-art facilities, including factories with access controls for secure production; warehouse facilities for raw materials and finished products; an administrative block that will provide office spaces for regulatory agencies; a research and development centre that will serve as a converging point for researchers from across the globe; as well as a training centre that will provide continuous capacity building for staff of companies within the park.
We commend the initiators of this project, as well as the laudable objectives behind their revolutionary vision. Indeed, if all the plans of the initiators are fully implemented as projected, there will be such phenomenal transformations in the Nigerian pharmaceutical space that will bring maximum benefits to not just the pharmaceutical manufacturers but all other stakeholders and the Nigerian nation as a whole. There is no doubt that the equipment and other facilities within the shared zone will not only guarantee efficiency but will also drastically cut the cost of manufacturing for companies at the park, by providing economies of scale.
Moreover, as Dr Obi Adigwe, director general of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) has aptly observed, “When you have a value chain of different stakeholders all aggregated in the same place, then it is easier to identify the needs of the entire value chain and then develop contextual research and development solutions that can help to address those needs.” Indeed, this collaboration of NAIP and Bloom Public Health in the Pharmacity Project will undoubtedly add value to the Nigerian pharmaceutical space and positively impact on pharmaceutical manufacturing in the entire West African sub-region.
It must be added, very importantly, that this initiative will not only ensure that local pharmaceutical manufacturers are empowered to produce high quality medicines that will comply with GMP guidelines, but will also reduce cost of medicines since the raw materials and other production factors will be sourced locally. With this, Nigerians and citizens of neighbouring West African countries can easily access quality medicines at affordable prices.
Also worthy of note is that the unveiling of the project in Ebonyi State is just the beginning as many other states will definitely key into the project and establish similar parks in their domains. The Governor of the state, Engineer David Umahi, indeed deserves commendation as he ensured that the unveiling was bolstered with the donation of one hundred hectares of land for the project. He also went further to perform the groundbreaking ceremony in company of the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa. The implication of this is that sooner than later, the Nigerian pharmaceutical landscape and the health sector, in general, would have been positioned to compete with their counterparts in any part of the world.
Additionally, the Pharmacity Project will also help to tackle the challenge of unemployment to a large extent. One can imagine the multiplier effect of establishing pharmaceutical parks in all the 36 states of the federation. The effect on job creation and increased revenues for the states cannot be overemphasised. Moreover, the establishment of these parks will also come with special power supply plans which, in effect, would improve electricity in these areas.
In terms of infrastructural development, the pharmacity project would definitely catalyze Nigeria’s industrialisation reputation. It is a project that all stakeholders in the health sector should support. Soon other African countries will adopt the model and continue to look onto Nigeria as a nation of innovators who would never cease to be relevant in the entire world’s quest for a vibrant health care system. We hereby call on all state governments and all stakeholders in the health sector to support this laudable project by allotting land and funds for its takeoff in their respective states.
We call on the leadership of NAIP and Bloom Public Health to, as a matter of urgency, sustain the tempo of their collective advocacy towards the full actualisation of this project. It is a treasure that is capable of obliterating the not-too-palatable impression the world has had about the Nigerian health sector.