We are evolving solutions to solve health, food problems in Nigeria
Senior Bayer Representative & Chief Financial Officer – West & Central Africa, Oliver Gierlichs, and Managing Director, Bayer Middle Africa Ltd, and Head of Marketing & Sales PH/CH Nigeria, Dr. Mohammed Jimoh, in this interview with ADELOWO ADEBUMITI explain how their firm would bring its innovative and effective products to the Nigerian market as well as enable the country to become more self-sufficient in providing high-quality food to a growing population.
In 2015, Bayer AG returned to Nigeria after divesting from the country’s economy for 22 years. What areas of your business focus do you think would be of benefit to the Nigerian people?
Bayer is a research and development (R&D)-based life science company that is active in the areas of crop protection and seeds, the area of pharmaceuticals (prescription drugs) and Over-the-Counter (OTC) products, including vitamins, analgesics and anti-allergies.
Nigeria is diversifying its economy with a lot of attention on agriculture, which is specifically one of your core areas of business interest. How do you think your presence here would aid in improving lives in the country?
We are active in three areas. Our crop science division offers a wide range of products (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, as well as seeds. Our experience of more than 100 years and the broad product portfolio enables us to provide tailor-made solutions to farmers. Those solutions help farmers to increase substantially their yields, to grow safe and healthy crops and to increase their revenues.
The pharmaceutical branch includes new inventions that help to cure diseases that have been unmet in the past.This covers therapeutic areas like cardiovascular and oncology. Bayer is also a leading company in hormonal contraceptives enabling women in their family planning.
Finally, our consumer health area includes products for affordable self-medication including painkillers, anti-allergies or vitamins for healthy and balanced nutrition.
Apart from your products in the market, what other areas will your organisation be willing to support government’s economic diversification initiatives?
Bayer is active in several forms. Some of them are yet to come; such as our food-chain initiative. However, a concrete example where we are supporting farmers is the stewardship. This means that we train and form farmers to better use crop protection products and beyond best-practice in agriculture in order to maximise yields and quality while reducing environmental impact at the same time.
With your line of businesses, you are playing in highly competitive sectors, what stands you out from your competitors?
First, like I said earlier, we are R&D-based. With more than €4.5b of R&D budget and more than 14, 000 scientists, we are a leading company in our respective areas since we develop products for unmet therapeutic areas and against crop diseases, where there have been no prior solutions.
Another important factor that should be stated is that Bayer is an employer, and in looking for long-term solutions, we develop our staff over time and provide long-term perspectives. All these are based on our values, which determine our partnerships with stakeholders on all levels.
Part of your mission is to improve people’s lives and contribute to society today and in the future. How do you intend to achieve this in Nigeria?
Our corporate mission is ‘Science for a Better Life.’ Bayer with its products helps to solve problems that are at the heart of society – health and food. Bringing our innovative and proven effective products to the Nigerian market will help people to live longer and healthier lives and enable Nigeria to become more self-sufficient in providing high-quality food to a growing population. Beyond this, Bayer’s investment in Nigeria shows our long-term commitment by creating employment, developing and training our staff and by being a reliable partner to our stakeholders.
What does the Nigerian economy stand to gain from innovative companies like yours?
Bayer brings the latest innovation to Nigeria in all areas. In Corp Science, it improves Nigerian products and makes them more competitive compared to foreign producers, no matter if they are meant to be exported or have to persist against imported crops.
In the healthcare areas, it saves lives from diseases that have had no solutions in the past. To improve medical practice we conduct several trainings every month on our medicines and its appropriate use to treat and prevent important diseases.
In general, when using Bayer products, there is a traceability and guarantee of quality standards, which is not the case for most generics. Beyond this, Bayer brings in his expertise being an employer of choice and developing its staff with latest knowledge and development. Finally, Bayer is a partner in communities where we work and reside. As such, we deploy programmes in the context of our corporate social engagement.
How involved is the German government in this investment in Nigeria?
Germany and its institutions have always been a partner to us. It provided a high degree of support when Bayer established the legal entity back in 2014. Since we maintain close contact with it and it support us in our further development.
There is a wide range of programmes that Bayer can make use of and that we decide to use when there are benefits in line with our strategy.
Where do you see the industry in the next five years?
With regards to the healthcare industry, we hope for a better regulation of the distribution of medicines, reducing the influx of counterfeit and unregulated products. We also hope that the government finds ways to establish a system of healthcare provision and reimbursement for all Nigerians. When it comes to the agrobusiness, the just mentioned topic of better regulation applies as well. It will be important that the governmental institutions and actors in the area of agro support this development by further implementing a clear and transparent frame for regulations. We will certainly see a growing awareness for high quality seeds and crop protection products, as the farmers need to feed a fast-growing population.
Nigeria, on its move to become a major economic player, also deserves better and more innovative products instead of sticking with generics and staying behind. We hope that the government shares this view and values companies that are capable to provide innovation to the country.
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