His experience and expertise in the pharmaceutical sector is immense. Scott Senwelo is a registered member of the Botswana Health Professionals Council (BHPC). He is also registered as a Pharmaceutical Chemist and is a Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
His career began in Europe, London to be precise. Senwelo obtained his first Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree (B.Pharm) at the King’s College London, University of London. He was offered a management role at a company in London named Moss Plc, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the UK at the time. Senwelo worked for two years before joining the UK’s leading retailer, Tesco PLC. In total, Senwelo worked for six and-a-half years in the UK, amassing retail experience which would shape his career forever.
“The UK is a very fast-paced environment where service quality is exceptional and efficiencies are the order of the day. We would ordinarily even jump onto the till to serve customers regardless of whether you held a senior management role or not,“ he says. It is his experience in London that taught him customer centrism and developed his business acumen.
In 2005, he relocated back home and scored himself a Marketing Manager position at Medswana, which was at the time the largest pharmaceutical distributor in Botswana. His excellence soon landed him the General Manager position at Medswana in 2008. Throughout his journey, Senwelo undertook academic upgrades. He acquired a Master of Science in Strategic Management from the University of Derby and did several executive management programmes at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
“I felt I needed to change direction and look for an opportunity to work for an international organisation with a global presence and systems, so I put myself back in the job market. I was hungry for something more challenging; something that would give me a regional or international exposure once again,” he explains before revealing that he got headhunted by an agency based in Johannesburg for him to become Country Manager for AstraZeneca here in Botswana. He would later be promoted to head several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a job at which he excelled and grew the brand equity.
It was during this period that Senwelo took an extended role and was co-appointed to Tetmosol in Africa Project, playing a Commercial Role, to roll out the project throughout Africa. He was part of a two-man team that launched the project in Accra, Ghana. His dedication and drive impressed his Africa CEO who promoted him to a position at AstraZeneca’s Bryanston Head Office in Johannesburg as Market Access Manager responsible for South Africa. In this role, he was responsible to design, lead and deliver market access strategies for AstraZeneca.
Senwelo eventually came back home armed with immense commercial, market access and technical expertise and experience built from the region. He was headhunted to lead Mediland. Asked about his impression when he joined Mediland, Senwelo has this to say: “I found a company that had so much potential and diversification in terms of product offering and healthcare solutions. In terms of market value and capitalisation, there was a lot more that could be done. So we needed to get straight to work.”
In his view, Mediland had a diversified structure that only needed to be solidified in terms of market development. At the time, more than 80 percent of Mediland revenue was from doing business with the government. Senwelo saw low hanging fruits immediately. He wanted to vigorously penetrate the private sector and thus decrease Mediland’s exposure to the government. “We managed to reduce the concentration risk by securing business from the private sector,” he says. “As we speak, the ratio of our revenue is almost 70 percent private sector and 30 percent government.”
Asking him on how that was achieved and he easily responds: “So many developments in the private sector created such opportunities. We saw the acceleration in opening of private pharmacies and private laboratories, establishment of private hospitals like Sidilega, Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital and other private establishments such as Francistown Teaching Hospital. Other facilities also expanded their business operations and services, among them Riverside Hospital in Francistown and MRI Prime Health Pharmacies. These establishments needed medical supplies as well as diagnostic solutions, and we were ready to work with them.”
However, there was also a need to segregate the market into available opportunities. As a pharmaceutical and medical supplier, Senwelo took notice of the fact that the general public (private individuals) were a very huge market. He speaks of a devoted focus on lifestyle products. Thus is a man who believes that in today’s lifestyle that entails long working hours and unhealthy eating, many people need supplements, be it for dietary reasons or whatever they choose, to stay healthy. “To us, it is an opportunity to ensure that we always provide a solution that will ensure fulfillment of the wellness of the mind, body and soul,” he says and then queries rhetorically: “What is lifestyle without beauty?”
He reveals that beauty-enhancing products, skincare and other health and beauty products are an opportunity Mediland found. “Our products and services can be made available anywhere in Botswana within 24 hours,” he says. “We employ local biomedical engineers, application specialists, epidemiologists, pharmacists, and other professionals who work 24/7 to support the business and give great service to our private clients as well as government facilities. We pride ourselves in good quality products and multinational agencies with the latest medical technologies.”
Mediland supplies its products through a business-to-business model. It supplies government hospitals through Central Medical Stores (CMS) and the National Health Laboratory (NHL), supplies private hospitals and clinics directly and sells to pharmacy retailers as well as private laboratories nationwide. Mediland also has private clients in the sub-Saharan region, hence the company’s plans include building a regional hub in Botswana geared at serving sub-Saharan Africa with pharmaceuticals and medical products.
COVID-19 FOUND MEDILAND READY
For the past two years, the world has been grappling with the deadly COVID-19, which resulted in the need for effective virus detection systems and technologies, as well as a subsequent vaccination rollout plans globally and here in Botswana. For the past 10 years, Senwelo says Mediland has gained experience in virus extraction, amplification and detection through a range of its technologies and equipment, an experience built from working with the Botswana Government and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) Project that focused on HIV management.
Mediland had the necessary extraction and amplification expertise as well as technologies when COVID-19 struck. The only ‘missing link’ was to source the chemical reagents that would be needed to detect the COVID-19.
“The technical expertise and experience was also not in question,” Senwelo notes. “What we did was to simply come up with a value proposition to the government (through the Ministry of Health) about how Mediland would be useful in helping the government detect COVID-19.”
With an effective strategy, it would be easy for the government to manage COVID-19 infections and treat patients in partnership with private entities available locally. The process was made easy by the fact that Mediland was already an agent for some of the best technologies available in the world (WHO pre-qualified products and technologies, FDA-approved and CE Marked technologies). Senwelo explains that the CE Mark is a requirement in the European Union while the FDA-approval process is a pre-requisite in the United States. Both standards perform the same functions, namely to assess the safety and efficacy of new devices, including drugs.
American consumers benefit from having access to the safest and most advanced pharmaceutical system in the world. The main consumer watchdog in this system is FDA’s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Senwelo says the centre’s best-known job is evaluation of new drugs before they can be sold. The evaluation not only prevents quackery but also provides doctors and patients with the information they need to use medicines safely. CDER ensures that drugs, both brand-name and generic, work correctly and that their health benefits outweigh their known risks.
According to Senwelo, the CE Mark is mandatory for a wide range of products for human use. The letters CE are an abbreviation for the French term “Conformite Europeen”. They indicate that the manufacturer is compliant with all applicable legal requirements of the EU’s “New Approach Directives” and European Regulations. The certifications have been vetted and approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Having explained the important technical safety standards and processes, Senwelo tells how Mediland employs highly trained professionals who receive regular clinical training from reputable multinational companies that the company represents. “It is because we signed binding distribution agreements with these multinationals and handle and supply their products that we ensure we have the same technical expertise as they do,” he emphasises.
THE NEXT BIG PLAN
Of recent, there has been an invitation from the government (through Busines Botswana) for health sector players to come up with a proposal to offer a turnkey cost recovery solution for vaccine warehousing and distribution in partnership with the government. The pharmaceutical sector has representation at Business Botswana through which it is a member of the High Level Consultative Council Health (HLCC) to find solutions to industry challenges.
Senwelo himself is a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Botswana (PSB). He is also a former Board Member and Vice Chairperson of the Southern African Generics Medicines Association (SAGMA) and a former Board Member and Executive Treasurer of the Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (FAPMA). He is a former Councillor for Botswana at the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA) and remains a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Botswana. He says the pharmaceutical industry has welcomed Business Botswana’s invitation for submission of proposals for vaccine warehousing and distribution. “We have the capacity and efficiencies to take the government on its offer,” he states with confidence.
For Senwelo, the sky is the limit in terms of possible synergies and healthcare solution offerings. Some of the prestigious awards that he has won include the Fellowship of the Pharmaceutical Society of Botswana and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the same institution.
“I am a recipient of Director’s Award for Best Student from the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB Executive Development Ltd 2013). I’ve done several courses on Pharmaceutical Production, including Flexibilities in the International Intellectual Property Rules and Local Production of Pharmaceuticals in the Southern, Central, and Western African Countries, “he asserts. His future outlook is for Botswana to work towards increasing value in the medical supply chain by initiating local production of key medications for the region and for Africa.