GROWING HEALTHY

Nigeria 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prince Emmanuel I. Ajayi D.Sc (hons), CEO & Managing Director of Swiss Biostadt Limited, on improving agricultural technology, increasing access to advanced medical treatment, and partnering with foreign investors.

Prince Emmanuel I. Ajayi D.Sc (hons)
BIOGRAPHY
Emmanuel Ajayi holds a degree in Agronomy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, an MBA in Marketing from the Kensington Business School, US, and a further MBA in Technology Management from Ogun State University, Nigeria. He has also been awarded a Doctorate Degree with Honors by the New World Mission Dunamis International University, South Africa, and also the Commonwealth University of Belize. Emmanuel is a member of both the Chartered Institute of Marketing of Nigeria and the Nigeria Institute of Management. He is also a member of the Nigerian Society for Plant Protection, and Crop Life Nigeria. Added to this, he is a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).

Can you elaborate on the services Biostadt Group offers?

We have been present in Nigeria since 1964, and are involved in three areas of business, namely agrocare, pharmacare, and healthcare. At Biostadt, we consider technology and solutions. In agribusiness, we look at what is available in the world of agriculture that will help farmers improve their crops and optimize yield potential. We look at technologies in terms of how they affect crop husbandry, agronomy, and post-harvest storage. We consider it across the entire value chains of the various crops being grown in Nigeria. Our teams also come up with solutions for crop protection across the various stages of growth and for the various crops. We are training our farmers with our pool of experts and agronomists. In the healthcare sector, the core problems we face in Nigeria relate to the lack of appropriate medical technology for diagnosis. That has been responsible for the high level of medical tourism in the country. Last year, figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) showed that Nigerians are spending $2 billion on medical tourism a year. This is not because the doctors are not good—they are—but because they lack the technology to deliver proper diagnoses. We thought that we needed to step in; so, today, after four or five years, we have been able to improve this sector. We have been able to install several magnetic resonance imaging machines and other radio-diagnostics across the country in both public and private entities. But let me say explicitly that many Nigerians are dying needlessly because we do not have the right medical infrastructure. This is what drives what we do.

What role can the private sector play in improving the situation on the ground?

The private sector can play many roles in terms of fast-tracking the development of medical infrastructure, hospitals, and diagnostic centers. Today, for a population of over 170 million, we have only 2,000 hospitals and clinics across the entire country, with many not properly equipped. There are, then, numerous opportunities for private-sector investment in the healthcare industry. I have been advocating this, and encouraging the banks to finance private sector investment in this arena, because the need and the market exist.

In agricultural terms, how can the government support SMEs without neglecting foreign investors?

Nigerian agriculture is where it is today because of many years of neglect. We are, therefore, glad that the current government has set up a robust agricultural transformation agenda. There is room for small-, medium-, and large-scale players. And when we look at our population and at our expense on food imports, we observe more than enough room for everyone. A high percentage of agribusiness companies in the country import raw agricultural materials for processing, meaning there is much room for development. The government needs to continue developing special policy frameworks for companies of all sizes to tap into. And there is more than enough of appeal for foreign investors. We are looking for investors in industrial agriculture. We need people who can go into processing, and now is the right time to invest in Nigerian agriculture.

How important is it for the group to invest in R&D, and what are the requirements for companies that may want to partner with you here in Nigeria?

First of all, the foreign organization has to share our values. We view business as a social enterprise. If you come here, we can make money for you, but if we cannot see value for the society and for the customer, we will be wary of partnering with you. We also consider whether potential partners have the tenacity to stay for the long haul. We are ready to invest, and need to do so, in R&D, together. We are looking at biotechnical products and the possibility of local production. We are also looking at what we can do locally to add value to our current operations.