Ayan Abdi Diriye
Somalia has a huge market, he declares
It is 6.30 pm. Customers are trooping into the hotel lobby. Hitan Majevdia walks in. He settles on a seat and asks the waiter to bring him a cup of coffee. He mixes a small quantity of the brewed black coffee with milk before gulping it.
â€œI like my coffee black, but since its too bitter, I have to add some milk. I now feel better. This works for me after a tight day,â€ he says as he gently places the cup on the table.
Majevdia, an accountant with a Masterâ€™s degree in Business Administration from the University of Liverpool, is here for an interview with The Somalia Investor magazine. He is the founder and managing director of Biopharma, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures medicines.
Majevdia is keen on working with a strategic partner who can set up a drug manufacturing plant in Somalia. This partner, he says, should be based in the country, as much as he acknowledges that technology transfer is a big challenge and local talent will need to be harnessed.
When he took a plunge in 1989 and started his own company, Majevdia contracted an Indian-based company to manufacture and distribute his products. However, as the business grew, he started to manufacture and distribute the medicine by himself, first focusing on three products, before later expanding the portfolio of supplies.
The manufacturing plant is in Kenya, but he entirely supplies the medicines to Somalia. â€œThe country has a huge market,â€ he observes. But it is no easy task to get the medicines to Somalia. â€œThe biggest challenge is logistics,â€ he explains. â€œWe transport the medicines by road (through the Mandera/Garissa road) and by sea if there is a ship. In high season, we take the whole container or lorry.â€
Biopharma works with two distributors in Somalia, but continuous availability of medicine in the country is still a huge challenge. To solve this, Majevdia suggests that the Somali government should consider having in place a central purchasing system to ensure seamless supply of medicines.
The firmâ€™s MD points out however, that by the time the medicines reach Mogadishu, they are usually quite expensive. This is owing to taxes imposed on medicines by the Federal Government of Somalia and â€œprotection feeâ€ paid along the road for the supplies to reach their destination safely. The three entry points are Mandera, Elwak and Mogadishu.
â€œIn Kenya there is no tax (on medicines). You important medicines and you donâ€™t pay tax. The Federal Government of Somalia should look into this and not tax the medicines,â€ he argues. He further proposes that there be one or two free trucks that can go to Somalia twice a week, and expresses hope that the countryâ€™s leadership will soon explore other sources of energy, such as wind and solar, to improve power supply and encourage local manufacturing.
Majevdia is also proposing to the government to put in place a special arrangement for essential products. â€œThis will benefit the government because costs will go down and there will be less money leaving the country.â€ Further, he proposes that the government should reconsider its tax regime and invite investors by providing incentives.
â€œYou have to dive into the deep-end if you want to learn how to swim. Go and conduct business in Somalia to know what they areâ€ Mr Hitan Majevdia Managing Director of Biopharma
Majevdia says that although Somalia faces the challenge of infrastructure, the countryâ€™s future is bright. He declares his strong conviction that Somalia will return to where it was because its people are business people. â€œSomalis are very enterprising and they just need a little push to ignite.â€
Because of that, he has a word of advice to Kenyan businessmen who are yet to test the business waters in Somalia: â€œYou have to dive into the deep-end if you want to learn how to swim. Go and conduct business in Somalia to know what they are.â€
Meanwhile, Majevdia is keen on ensuring that the company maintains the quality required for his pharmaceutical products. Biopharma carries out self-inspection and also complies with WHO standards.