How are your plans progressing to build your new hospital, and what are the challenges for Nordica Fertility Clinic in finding international partners?
Building a new hospital is a slow process. The company is in discussions with investors; however, we are still looking for suitable investors. Our selection process is focused on finding partners that share our view and concept for the hospital. It could be that we have not been looking in the right places, but we are working to put it together.
What is the investment climate like in healthcare in Nigeria?
Healthcare sector is not viewed as a good investment option due to its long-term nature. However, it is unlikely for a hospital to fail once it is profitable. We are looking for partners that have the proper hospital management expertise. Nordica Fertility Clinic has been doing IVF for about 16 years, so we have the right structure in place in this field. Our aim is to extend the high standards we are known for to a full-scale hospital. Another issue in terms of investment is, for example, getting investment funds from an institution in dollars and then operating the hospital with local currency.
How competitive is the fertility segment of the healthcare industry in Nigeria?
On paper it is becoming competitive; however, we need to focus on improving the quality of our services. Quality is still a problem in Nigeria because no regulatory body is governing the fertility segment. There is a misconception that it is easy to operate a fertility clinic and generate profits from it. As a result, competition is increasing in comparison to a few years ago.
Why is there no regulation in place?
This is not exclusively an issue in Nigeria; there are just a handful of countries with fertility regulatory bodies. In case of Nigeria, the country lacks the infrastructure, which is why we are working on building a self-regulatory body. Moreover, an association of fertility and reproductive doctors and other practitioners are trying collectively to set standards that clinics should meet before they are allowed to practice.
How attractive is this segment of medicine for investors compared to other areas of healthcare in Nigeria?
The bane of any medical practice in Nigeria is not that it is unprofitable, but that it is badly managed most of the time—even general medicine in Nigeria suffers from this. There are no state-of-the-art hospitals in Nigeria, a country of 180 million people—but why not? These are the questions we need to start asking. Due to these issues, the healthcare sector in Nigeria is still in its infancy stage.
What do you think is the barrier to developing top hospitals here?
One factor is that many companies are reluctant to expand in Nigeria. There was a similar issue with the telecommunications industry in 2001, but MTN was one of the companies that decided to expand, and Nigeria is turning out to be a great investment for MTN. The perception is slowly changing, but there are still a number of misconceptions about safety in Nigeria.
You recently stated that the same attention that has been given to HIV should be given to endometriosis. Can you elaborate on this?
A few years ago, HIV was something that no one in Nigeria spoke about. In fact, people interviewed about HIV would insist on being veiled so that no one could recognize them. This led to a lot of quacks inventing new, ineffective drugs. However, with continuous research, treatments started to emerge, and the attention shifted to qualified scientists providing genuine solutions. Endometriosis is facing the same problem. We are continuously trying to create an African platform in order to raise the profile of endometriosis. While citizens are helping us create awareness, the government is yet to lend its support. In 2018, around 1,000 people joined our march for endometriosis; given where we started this campaign from, that was a huge crowd.
Are you seeing increased confidence in local medical institutions from Nigerians who used to go abroad for specialist treatments?
There is no one definite answer. Nigerians continue to head abroad for treatment, but at the same time, the number of Nigerians who prefer to receive treatment here is increasing. Even foreigners and Nigerians from countries like Canada, Australia, the US, and the UK are flying to Nigeria due to cheap, high-quality treatment. For Nigerians who live abroad, it also gives them an opportunity to visit their homeland. This is one of the ideas we are focusing on—making Nigeria a health tourism destination for the diaspora.
What is your outlook for Nordica Fertility Clinic and the Nigerian economy in 2019?
For Nordica, the next step is constructing a hospital. The Nigerian economy is attracting an increasing number of international players; Africa is set to be the next region in focus for development. In order to facilitate that, African governments need to provide security, quality infrastructure, and a corruption-free system. If Nigeria can ensure that, it could become the next China or India, because Nigeria has a population that can support new services; however, despite the enormous potential, it is necessary for Nigeria and its people to lay down a groundwork that will uplift investors' confidence.