Recently, a few articles that came across my desk (well, inbox) got me thinking about Africa in terms of medical device markets how appealing is it and is this something that medical device companies can realistically capitalize on.
First, I took a look at Africa from an economic stand point. Earlier this year, the Economist issued a special report on Africa
. The picture it painted was hopeful no, the situation in Africa is certainly not ideal. But, there is a strong case to be made that it's improving. The real income per capita increased by more than 30% in the past ten years, and GDP is expected to rise by approximately 6% per year for the next decade. By 2025 the World Bank predicts that most African countries will be classified as middle income.
What about health care. Well it stands to reason that if the economic situation in these countries continues to improve, so will health care, and there are already some positive steps in this direction. To understand this better though, it's helpful to go straight to the source: for example, this MassDevice article
detailing health care in Africa based on a visit to Ethiopia is particularly interesting. For example, the author mentioned that official buy-in from the government is important in Africa when trying to get a new technology introduced. Even private clinics which she noted as being clean and well-supplied were partially funded by the local government because the public ones were often full.
Well, selling to someone other than the doctors performing the procedures isn't an entirely new concept for medtech companies; we've discussed before how everyone in the industry is increasingly noting the shift toward selling to payers and hospital value committees on cost-effectiveness rather than purely to doctors on clinical efficacy.
But a few things are unique in Africa and other emerging markets that are worthwhile for companies operating in Africa to consider: as we've touched on before, mobile technology has almost had an easier time penetrating some of the emerging markets compared to the developed ones, and this might make it a particularly fruitful, if not first-to-mind, market for mHealth solutions. In fact, the easy access to smartphone networks was something mentioned in both the MassDevice and Economist articles. Another factor to consider is potential demand for stripped-down medical devices fancy functionality and features are being questioned more and more in the developed markets, let alone in more cash-starved developing nations. Preventative care and treatment is also in high demand in Africa although likely not exactly in the same light that companies are considering preventative care in the US, it's still true that companies are thinking more broadly along the entire continuum of care for a patient rather than focusing on a specific treatment, even in the more traditional markets.
So definitely some hurdles left in Africa, and it won't be entirely smooth sailing there for awhile but it does seem like some of the things companies are already thinking about for the bigger developed markets might ultimately help them gain share and potentially a first-mover advantage in the rapidly developing African nations.