AfricaLive: Please tell readers about the DNA of your company and your motivation behind starting the enterprise.
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: The Danpong Group got off the ground back in 1989 after I arrived back in the country from the United States where I had been doing my studies. I had the sole aim of helping treat my mother from the effects of a stroke she had. I ordered some tablets for her, which I couldn’t find locally, from the states which worked quite wonderfully. It then hit me that these drugs were quite affordable in the United States but were nonexistent in our part of the world. I, therefore, realised that there was a need to have pharmaceuticals right here in Ghana.
The name, Danpong, is a combination of my mother and auntie’s names which are Adansi and Sarpong respectively. I named the company after them because I owe who I am today to those two women. Our first store was in Kumasi, where we imported generic medicine from America and distributed it.
In the early ‘90s, we set up a second store in the capital, Accra. With time we developed into major importers who not only shipped in medication for ourselves but for other outlets as well because we wanted an adequate supply of medicine for our people. Down the road, I became aware of the need to have a laboratory and a clinic, which I set up initially with two members of staff.
By 1999, I had set up a new store that ran the clinic and the laboratory and years later in 2004, I began to work on my next big move. The cost of treating HIV patients at the time was through the roof in Ghana, a concern that the government was struggling to cope with. I went to India to research on the issue and came back eight months later with a strategic plan laid out. Danadams Pharmaceuticals was then born soon after.
Danadam’s sole aim was to produce anti-retroviral drugs that would help treat thousands of ailing Ghanaians. The president at the time lauded our efforts and officially commissioned the pharmaceutical on 8th June 2005. Since then, we have been running Danpong as a healthcare facility and Danadams as a manufacturing entity.
In 2010, we began exporting antiretrovirals to neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, and the Ivory Coast. We have a broad spectrum of medication, which consists of antiretrovirals, antimalarial drugs and other generic medications. Danpong Healthcare has grown from a small clinic to having the ability to take care of over four thousand patients every month in our community. 2018 saw me become president of the Association of Ghana Industries, where I champion the manufacturing sector to help meet the needs of our people.
AfricaLive: Most CEOs we’ve spoken to in Ghana believe that the creation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement can be a catalyst for significant growth on the continent. Do you share the same beliefs, and what are your plans as we approach this new reality?
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: The agreement is a game-changer for our community. Those of us who are open-minded enough will benefit from the agreement because we realise that only Africans can turn this continent around. Foreign help is always welcome, but it works better if it is in conjunction with the Ghanaian industry. As president of the Ghana Association of Industries, my vision is to help boost the productivity of local giant companies so that they meet the needs of our people. If we strengthen our local industries, we can cut down on imports and save us from losing much-needed funds.
The AfCFTA will also help facilitate collaboration between industries wherever they are located within the continent. Collaborative efforts amongst African industries are being sealed now more than ever. We recently inked an agreement with Rwanda, which will see us construct a Danadams facility in the East African country.
We also have a similar agenda in Nigeria. The free trade agreement is, therefore, an opportunity that will see local businesses form synergies with those in neighbouring countries to help solve the problems of our people. If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the fact that a lack of preparedness means disaster. The trade agreement allows us to prepare and strengthen so that our continent stays afloat in case of another international crisis.
AfricaLive: Even with a comprehensive local content policy in place, there is a need to bring in foreign investors. How can we create a Ghana that is attractive to foreign investment and at the same time favourable to indigenous enterprise?
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: Our current president has to be commended for addressing this question with his actions. His “Ghana beyond Aid” manifesto is one that seeks to empower indigenous businesses. The ‘big foreign multinationals that come in and hire our people model’ doesn’t work because in the long run, there will be a lot of capital flight.
We are, therefore, looking at building local giants that will help spur entrepreneurship and lead to organic growth. Our Ministries of Trade, Finance and The Presidency have shown great interest in engaging the private sector which means that we are on our way to something special.
AfricaLive: What would you consider as the major opportunities and threats facing your sector?
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: A major challenge we have had is our inability to work in partnerships. About two years ago, I gave a lecture about a concept known as Ghanjeria. Ghanjeria means collaboration between the two countries of Ghana and Nigeria that make up eighty per cent the English speaking ECOWAS block.
If industries in both countries partner properly, we can take care of over three-hundred million people in the sub-region. The French-speaking countries have their sub-block, but we must set aside any regional barriers and work as one for the sustainability of our businesses.
Some of the threats that plague us at the moment include; mistrust, shortage of funding, high costs of production as well as infrastructure. We have to move past this current era where shipping goods to Cameroon from Ghana means a trip through Spain first because of inadequate infrastructure. If we are going to be successful and sustainable, we must improve our infrastructure so that we can increase efficiency and reduce transit times.
AfricaLive: For a long time, pharmaceuticals in Ghana have been seen as just importers. Times are changing now as indiegenous pharmaceutical companies are doing their own research and development while adding value. What innovations and flagship projects are you looking at currently?
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: Our strategy is to engage institutions of higher learning and help commercialise their research. This is an opportune time to do that because the new vice-chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University is a pharmacist, and so is the new vice-chancellor of the Cape Coast University. We are counting on their understanding of the industry to make it easier to craft indigenous pharmaceutical research as well as products to help our population.
As that develops, we are looking to introduce multiple-dose combinations that combine different drugs to stop the prescription of so many different tablets. The combination drug therapies are being done even for antiretroviral drugs. We believe that constant innovation is a necessity if we are to stay relevant.
AfricaLive: Ghana faces a significant long term challenge from the twin pressures of a growing youth population and increased workplace automation brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution. In short – you must create 10 million new jobs over the coming years to avoid mass youth unemployment and possible social unrest. What steps do you believe need to be taken to empower Ghana’s private sector to succeed in driving economic growth and job creation on this scale?
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: Our president Nana Akuffo-Ado has put in place a Ministry of Business Development. The ministry’s mandate is to see to it that programmes are put in place to empower our youth. Our president has also initiated a programme that ensures the top 100,000 students a year are tied to companies that will ensure they get placement into positions down the road.
There also needs to be a mindset change amongst our youth. We must drop the mentality that success means having a three piece suit and showing up to an office every day. Our youth need to start being attracted to farming and other skills that are not seen as glamorous.
Mechanisation is another big piece in our agenda. We must mechanise our agriculture to see higher yields and achieve food security. The government is also targeting to have one dam per district to ensure all year round irrigation of our crops. Our current administration’s efforts can only be sustainable if we work to change the mentality of our youth so that they don’t look down on any area of specialisation.
AfricaLive: What message would you like to communicate regarding your company and regarding Ghana to our international audience and potential investors?
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi: It is important that people realise that the healthcare of Africans is dependent on companies like Danadams and other local players within the continent. We, the industrialists of Africa must rise to the occasion and take advantage of opportunities that help us solve the challenges of our people. Most of us industrialists are aware that posterity will judge us harshly if we don’t do all it takes to make this continent a better place. We know that we owe future generations a better continent, and we are working every day to make that happen.