Current Issue 52
Affordable, Accessible, Availing
Zenufa Laboratories has replicated its early healthcare and manufacturing successes in DRC, into Tanzania and looks forward to the next stage of its geographical and product expansion
Writer Matthew Staff
Project Manager James Smith
Rising from a small trading company in the DRC in 1976, the Zenufa Group of Companies has grown into a dynamic, medium sized, international conglomerate over the years to satisfy the emerging and diversified market demands within the East & Central African region.
While also involved in business activities that reach as far as India and Canada, it is the company’s influence in the pharmaceutical industry from which it has made its name and built its strong reputation over the years; its migration into Tanzania being the business’s groundbreaking strategic move up to this point.
“The Group has pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities located in two strategic locations within Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Kinshasa, and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, with an additional ground distribution presence in five countries,” Zenufa Tanzania’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Harvinder Alag explains.
In both cases, “the manufacturing facilities were founded with the primary objective of providing a wide variety of pharmaceutical preparations, manufactured under a hygienically controlled environment, with a promise of consistent guaranteed quality and affordability”, the CEO continues.
The diversification of the wider Group, incorporating Zenufa Laboratories more than 15 years ago, has enabled the business to enforce its continuous improvement strategy throughout challenging market conditions, becoming a leading importer and distributor having represented a portfolio of prestigious global companies including the likes of Pfizer, Pharmacia Upjohn and Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.
“Zenufa Laboratories’ platform on efficient and effective healthcare is embedded in the company’s longterm vision of availing pharmaceutical products, which are affordable and nationally accessible, with a promise of consistent guaranteed quality,” Alag notes.
Since moving into Tanzania in 2007, originally as Mimco International, Zenufa has replicated this early vision and dedication to quality, as Alag adds: “We’re proudly Tanzanian, no less than our western counter-parts, and, most importantly, one of the most high-tech cGMP facilities in East Africa.”
Complementing the quality infrastructure are the people who work inside the facilities throughout the entire Zenufa Group, as the need to adapt and prepare for various industry trends remains of paramount importance to the company’s ongoing success.
Alag says: “Producing pharmaceuticals is a complex process that requires high levels of technical expertise. Sufficient human resource capacity is required, specialising in manufacturing and regulatory measures as well as quality control and assurance procedures.”
Requiring a plethora of expertise across chemistry, pharmacy, engineering and machinery operations, the ability to make the most of the limited skills available within the region becomes a skill in itself, and is subsequently subsidised by a fully-functioning internal training process.
“Even though the staff are well educated, they still lack the requisite experience to be able to match proficiency of their counterparts in the other parts of the world,” Alag explains. “Thus, we are providing in-house training in most of the areas by way of classroom training as well as on-the-job training and skill development workshops, etc.
“Workers are also sent for external training programmes at times, organised by various institutes or agencies.”
Aspiring to be pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation, Zenufa’s collaborative efforts in having a fully equipped on-site control laboratory further enforces the standards that the industry has come to expect of the company, while it has also capitalised on key partnerships to enhance the offering further.
One such partnership is the affiliation the company now has with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), who pass on their technical knowhow in assisting the most stable formulation of the anti-malarial artesunate and amodiaquine, fixed dose combination as a bi-layered tablet, by way of a technology transfer agreement.
Zenufa’s collaborative efforts in bringing the best in healthcare to the region is a substantial ongoing investment made by the business and has also led to the aid of locally relevant treatments including malaria.
This also represents another facet of the company’s commitment to care, as Alag explains: “We are looking at venturing into manufacturing of ARVs for donor-funded projects and for which we are open to a strategic partnership with any companies that are looking to venture in to Africa as a CSR activity.”
Other areas which the company plans to move into include donor funded projects for primarily prequalified products; and optimising the potential for growth in key lifestyle areas such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and obesity.
Local procurement of raw materials has long been a challenge for all companies working in the sector, but as the company continues to improve its own standards and skill sets, Zenufa is also having a positive knock-on effect on the surrounding region, forming a sustainable strategy for progression and expansion looking towards the future.
Areas of expansion are always carried out off the back of extensive research and marketing among its divisions, ensuring that the company’s sales and medical representatives stay ahead of the industry curve in regards to the ethical promotion of products, as well as establishing the most efficient distribution channels to the retail counter.
“We ensure each prescription that is being generated is being honoured,” Alag states. “The primary sales are through major wholesalers in each territory along with major institutions such as NGOs, hospitals and polyclinics. The retail pharmacies are also catered directly through the medical and sales representatives.”
“Our sales and marketing team work hand-in-hand with the customers all over the country and keep a tab on the product quality, and feedback from the customers.”
A continuous dialogue is also kept open with hospitals and dispensaries to ensure that any untoward reactions to Zenufa products are dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible, subsequently withdrawing products from the market, if necessary.
All of this fits under Zenufa’s overall strategy to produce profitable, safe products and to achieve long-term sustainability.
This applies to DRC and Tanzania primarily at present, but with the likes of Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique also on the company’s radar for future geographical expansion, Alag’s strive for “consistent quality, affordability and adherence to WHO standards” will soon be reaching a wider audience than ever before.