Nigeria’s struggling pharmaceutical industry amid COVID-19

On March 21, the Nigerian Government announced a $9bn stimulus package to boost the economy against the impact of the coronavirus. Out of this, $257m is to serve as grants for major pharmaceutical companies in the country.

It was the first major response from the government to the damage caused by the pandemic on the Nigerian economy.

Many would have assumed that a health crisis is an opportunity for drug manufacturers in the country to make a lot of money, but the Managing Director of Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Matthew Azoji says otherwise.

‘The impact of the pandemic on the industry is mostly hinged on the fact that the industry imports up to 90 per cent of its ingredients and raw materials, says Mr. Azoji.

This means that months before the coronavirus hit the shores of Nigeria, the industry had started feeling the pinch of the pandemic.

Azoji reiterates that India is Nigeria’s major source of pharmaceutical supplies and because the pandemic originated from the Asian country, supplies for most drug makers in the country have been held up.

He added, “We ordered some major raw materials since January and we are only just getting them now in May. We lost five months of production for that product.”

He however disclosed that his company had no intention to lay off staff yet unless the situation worsened beyond control.

When the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Mr. Godwin Emefiele made the announcement about the grant back in March, he specifically mentioned the handicap of being a major importer of pharmaceutical products.

“The Bankers’ Committee took the decision to support the pharmaceutical companies given the fact that the present pandemic was of grave public health concern, coupled with the fact that many drug-manufacturing countries planned or had already banned the export of drugs and medical supplies from their respective countries, thereby leaving Nigeria no choice but to produce the drugs locally,” he said.

There is no indication that any pharmaceutical company has successfully accessed the government grant yet or to what extent this fund would change the industry.

It is however clear that the pandemic is a lesson to Nigeria’s import-dependent economy.

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