Emphasis on Healthcare
As a pioneer in Kenya’s pharmaceutical industry, Laborex is strategically placed to reach patients across East Africa
Writer: Sean Galea-Pace | Project Manager: Callam Waller
Since its inception, Laborex Kenya has continued to grow and solidify its position as a leading importer and distributor of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, not just across Kenya, but throughout East Africa.
From a patient reach perspective, Laborex is strategically placed to reach patients across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania through its branch networks that are placed in the major cities and towns across these three East African Nations. As a pacesetter in the pharmaceutical industry in Kenya, Laborex Kenya was the first pharmaceutical importer and distributor to be ISO certified in 2008 and this was made possible through the efforts of its Quality and Security Manager, Anthony Kamau, who spearheaded this project. Under his guidance, Laborex is proud to acknowledge that it has since been ISO 9001:2015 re-certified in 2020.
In keeping with setting the standard when it comes to sustainable supply chain practices and good pharmaceutical practices beginning with the supply chain department all the way to the warehousing and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, Laborex has invested in a fleet of vehicles that are temperature-controlled and temperature-monitored.
This ensures that product integrity is maintained at all times and that the quality and efficacy of the products under its care are transported in line with good transportation practices and also in line with the storage and transportation conditions as outlined by the manufacturers of these products. Thus, its clients – hospitals (public and private), pharmacies and institutions non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations) – are assured that the quality processes have been followed all through, from the time of invoicing to the time they receive their products.
This is made possible through its operations and regulatory departments. It is the operations department that handles the logistics of getting the product into the country and ensuring that these products reach the final destination — the clients. The regulatory department then ensures product quality and only releases for sale products that have passed quality assurance tests. The operations and regulatory departments are headed by the Operations Director and Company Pharmacist, Sara Agak, whose sole purpose is to ensure quality medicines are accessible to the right patient, at the right time.
The sales and marketing department headed by the Sales and Marketing Director, Anthony Dinga, augments the activities of the operations and regulatory departments by ensuring that the right medication, which has reached the patient timely, is affordable to the patient, thus ensuring access to medicines as per the universal healthcare agenda.
Additionally, the sales and marketing department is designed to meet the unique needs of all of Laborex’s clients. Laborex possesses a dedicated team that handles the hospitals and institutions business and ensures that the organisation is ably represented in this important market by ensuring participation in both public and private tenders, thus ensuring competitive bidding that culminates with the Kenyan people accessing affordable medicines throughout the region. Laborex also has a pharma explorer team whose main task is to reach out to the smaller retail pharmacies who are established mainly in residential areas in a bid to ensure that these pharmacies have the right mix of medicines for their clients and to also ensure accessibility of essential medicines in these pharmacies/residential areas.
To Laborex Kenya, talent management is an important pillar because the firm recognises the key drivers of a successful business. Fronting this effort is HR Manager, Lydiah Wambugu and it is hers and Laborex’s belief that the retention of staff and ensuring a positive environment where employees can thrive without disruption is essential. This also means placing welfare at the fore and implementing what is needed and as a result, Laborex Kenya has undertaken various initiatives to ensure it retains staff. Laborex is part of a larger group - Eurapharma - which acquired the firm in 2012.
Indeed, at Laborex, the firm believes in a holistic approach to healthcare. Laborex is seeking to go into FMCG but with a tweak towards going to something more aligned to patient health, personal care with a full range from infancy to adulthood and dry packaged goods such as biscuits. Behind this consumer division are individuals who are enthusiastic, engaging and energetic who have the unique task of showcasing a different side of Laborex, headed by Winnie Kutol.
Laborex has and continues to give back to society. One of the things the organisation is most proud of is its work with the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC), by supporting their vaccination programme to ensure the health and safety of the students in this institution.
Some of the students live in remote areas and the aim of our partnership is to ensure that the institution received the quality, efficacious vaccines timely in order for their students to be vaccinated on time.
As a company keen on attracting both foreign and local investment either directly or indirectly and also set on showcasing the untapped potential in the pharmaceutical industry in East Africa, Laborex Kenya has invested in launching a state-of-the-art warehousing facility in its subsidiary, Laborex Uganda, based in Namanve Industrial Park.
The purpose of this kind of investment is not only to continue to provide quality, safe and efficacious medicines and health products to the public, but to also underscore the fact that there is great potential in investing in the pharmaceutical industry in East Africa, from manufacturing to distributorship. It is through such investments that the rest of the world is made aware of the untapped potential within the pharmaceutical industry space in East Africa.
It is fair to say that the pharmaceutical industry was hit hard in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Laborex across its East African operations was no different. Close to 95 percent of the medicines and medical devices it sells are imported from different parts of the world.
Some of the challenges that Laborex faced during 2020, whilst keeping to its commitment of availing quality and affordable medicines and medical devices to its clients were: initial panic buying, erratic flight schedules, increased freight costs, delayed deliveries and lockdowns in other countries, thus affecting shipments into East Africa.
Through the guidance of the company’s former CEO, Mwende Musunga, Laborex implemented a business continuity plan and through its close working relationships with its partners, its supply chain team and partners worked tirelessly to mitigate these challenges. In some instances, Laborex had to increase the stock holding of key products as supply schedules had been disrupted; together with partners, carried out due diligence on the use of chartered flights to ensure that they could meet its needs.
Laborex paid keen attention to the freight costs as it needed to ensure they did not go above a certain percentage; together with its partners, the company mapped out the best flight and sea routes/schedules to ensure delivery at its ports of entry; and worked closely with clearing and forwarding agents to ensure timely release of goods at ports of entry and worked closely with partners again to ensure timely quality release of the goods. All this was in a bid to reduce any impact of shortage of goods in the market.
The members of the finance department were not spared from the disruptions that the pandemic brought with it. The team, under the guidance of the Finance Director, Philippe Gautier, worked tirelessly to ensure timely collections from its clients, at the same time, they worked out payment plans with Laborex’s clients as the footfall in hospitals and institutions had decreased drastically, thus impacting on cash flow. The finance department helped keep Laborex afloat.
There is potential in Africa, as showcased in the African Union (AU) Development Agenda 2063 where African Governments have made bold steps to improve the livelihoods of her people and create equal opportunities for all in economic development, Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC), infrastructural development, among others.
In East Africa, this AU Agenda 2063 has been cascaded down to each country level through the country specific development programmes such as Kenya Vision 2030, the Tanzania development Vision 2025 and Uganda Vision 2040, with each placing a special focus on healthcare development. Laborex Kenya has aligned itself to support its Governments’ drive towards achieving UHC agenda by continuously investing in the pharmaceutical, medical devices and FCMG industry.
Laborex has invested in state-of-the-art facilities and fleets, capable, knowledgeable and dedicated staff and additionally, if 95 percent of the healthcare products have to be outsourced, there is significant opportunity to invest in local manufacturing to reduce the dependence while also giving back to society and creating jobs, while equipping the next generation with valuable knowledge and skills.