What was your starting point for establishing Danpong Group in 1999?
My starting point for the Danpong Group was opening a retail pharmacy at a time when there was a scarcity of quality medicine on the market. My goal was to get high-quality, generic pharmaceuticals into the country to treat simple diseases, infections, and malnutrition. We opened two main retail pharmacy shops in Kumasi and Accra in 1999. We started to grow and became a wholesaler. Not only were we importing for our own shops, but also to supply other pharmacies. We moved into manufacturing in 2000 and that is when we set up another subsidiary called Danadams Pharmaceuticals Ltd. That company focused on the production of anti-retroviral drugs used to treat HIV patients, and we produced our first anti-retroviral drugs in 2005. We realized that the country cannot continue to import generic drugs because of the foreign exchange imbalance. By bringing in the raw materials and producing locally, we create jobs and value in order to make these medicines available in the country. By employing 275 people, we are able to create opportunities for others as well. We then wanted to move on from that level of operating the pharmacies, and producing and supplying medicines, and explore options for community development. We decided to set up a community clinic and opened the Danpong Clinic, where we see about 3,000 patients a month. We established a medical laboratory with diagnostics capabilities, including CT scanners, ultrasound, and radiology. We have de-worming and drug use and misuse education programs in schools.
How have you capitalized on the huge potential for manufacturing and exporting pharmaceuticals from Ghana throughout the regional market?
We have been exporting since 2009, and there is considerable potential for further expansion. When we started producing anti-retroviral drugs, we looked to Francophone countries as potential markets. We got our products registered in those countries and submitted our samples for French approval, and we now supply at least six countries with anti-retroviral drugs. We export to Burkina Faso, Gambia, Togo, Benin, and Côte d'Ivoire, and we are entering the Nigerian market. The key point is that if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) wants to see at itself as one economic block, then we need to remove barriers and make these medicines accessible to our neighboring countries. By 2020, Danadams Pharmaceuticals should be the leading pharmaceutical supplier in the ECOWAS region.
Are you looking for partners to help build capacity for those exports?
We have to build collaboration with the government. We have agencies in these countries and I discuss our goals with the politicians. My aim is to find a way to make medicines available to the population, which is generally well received. The Ghanaian government has been supportive in helping us to grow. With the current economic situation here, we have been looking to the private sector for support and financing to facilitate growth. We are expanding our current factory. We currently produce about 25 million tablets per month, but when we move into the new facilities we will be producing 100 million tablets per month.
What role can Ghanaian pharmaceuticals play in supporting the country's GDP growth?
The engine of growth in any country is the private sector. Our pharmaceutical sector could be buoyant and help Ghana's economy, especially as none of the Francophone countries have much pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. The government should support this sector for exporting, rather than depending on gold, cocoa, and bauxite for export revenues. Developing sustainable companies makes more economic sense. People will always need medicines and there will always be a need for health care. Nearly 70% of Ghana's drug consumption currently comes from India or China, so we should build up our own market to meet local demand and to build exports.
What products are you focusing on developing?
There are 5.3 million HIV patients in West Africa, and 3.5 million in Nigeria alone. The 280 million people living in West Africa are likely to get malaria at least once a year. We will continue to produce the medicine that people need at a high quality. We also have to educate our people. Public education is an important facet of our agenda as a company, as simply improving the environment reduces cases of malaria and other infections. We focus on talking to, educating, and inspiring children through our school visits and sharing our own success stories with them. Children matter most to us, and we want to help them to develop into men and women who believe in themselves; the future of Africa depends on this.