There are expectations that broadband technology scheduled to be deplored in Nigeria in 2010 by two private firms, Globacom (Glo 1) and Mainstreet Technologies (Main One) may transform healthcare services delivery across the country. The two firms are set to pioneer the laying of the foundation for the high speed voice, data and video transmission networks Nigeria needs to proactively lead the West African sub-region in telemedicine, tele-education and electronic business development.
Industry watchers and analysts point at potential opportunities for U.S. suppliers and manufacturers of cutting-edge medical equipment used especially for medical examination, on-line training and international collaboration particularly during complex and difficult operations. Nigeria is reforming healthcare policies and rebuilding healthcare organizations at the three levels of healthcare system in the country – the teaching and federal hospitals, general and state hospitals and the so-called primary healthcare centers usually built according to political constituencies. Nigeria continues to import most of its medical equipment and pharmaceutical products. Local production is limited to peripheral items such as hospital beds and gurneys. The country lacks the necessary infrastructure and know-how to produce, especially precision medical equipment. Nigeria has been reforming healthcare policies and rebuilding tertiary healthcare institutions, such as teaching hospitals and primary healthcare centers.
Telemedicine promises a lifeline for Nigeria’s rural and semi-urban communities, which do not have access to any form of functional healthcare facilities. Telemedicine should receive a great boost this year as two Nigerian firms, Globacom (Glo 1) and Mainstreet Technologies (Main One) deplore broadband technology across the country. Nigeria is pursuing an agenda of universal access to both telecommunications and primary healthcare services. The GON goal is by 2015, every Nigerian, no matter his social status, will have access to a form of healthcare service within 15 kilometers. Associated with this national goal is the necessity for technology infrastructure development, capacity building and continuous training for healthcare personnel. The Society for Telemedicine and eHealth in Nigeria (SFTeHIN), is promoting adoption of tele-medicine leading hospitals, public agencies, and private healthcare operators including social entrepreneurs who work in rural communities. Most members of the association are professionals who were trained in the United States or Europe, or have relationships with users of telemedicine outside Nigeria.
The United States has a unique opportunity to leverage its bilateral relations to help Nigeria diffuse telemedicine technology, install equipment and develop systems to revamp Nigeria’s primary healthcare services nationwide.
The vision of Health for All by the Year 2015 may be achieved if Nigeria can leverage telemedicine to improve service delivery especially primary healthcare centers in rural and semi-urban communities. To improve performance standards, the country needs to train more personnel, reduce cost of services, and access expertise not readily available in the country. According to the President of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Doctor Dan Gana, primary healthcare system in Nigeria is in a precarious condition. Currently, the country boasts of 25,000 practicing doctors from an estimated 50,000 previously. The remaining 25,000 have emigrated to Europe, America, or Middle East.
Some states in Nigeria offer free medical services, particularly diagnosis and treatment of malaria for children and pregnant women. The Government of Nigeria is currently reforming the industry sector starting with introduction of a National Health Insurance in 2005. The government insists it will not be solely responsible for primary healthcare services across the country. Instead, it will support the states in an effort to bring primary health care services to the people, especially in rural communities.
Nigeria says it is committed to the Millennium Development Goals but the health sector has remained almost stagnant and old facilities are in bad condition. There has been very little visible improvement in this sector. Perhaps the only visible program in the sector is the enforcement of regulations in food and drug administration by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
National Health Insurance, introduced in 2006, appears to be going well. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was first proposed about 30 years ago, but due to inconsistencies in policy implementation, the scheme was delayed for three decades. The NHIS is aimed at generating resources for healthcare delivery as well as providing access to quality healthcare delivery. Other categories of healthcare services that have been given high priority include the intensification of non-curative components of primary health care, such as sanitation health education, national preventive campaigns against childhood diseases and free compulsory immunization programs.
HIV/AIDS has been identified as a growing problem in Nigeria. The government has expressed concern about this looming menace as it could have a devastating impact on Nigeria’s growth and poverty-alleviation efforts if unchecked. Officially, the rate of HIV infection in Nigeria is about 5.8 percent. It is estimated that the government would need substantial purchases of drugs and HIV/AIDS-related test kits.
Since 2006, the Federal Ministry of Health has been revamping dilapidated healthcare infrastructure and installing new equipment and systems across the country. The ministry is using a consultative process through the National Primary Health Care Development Board to revitalize primary healthcare systems.
Imports from Europe, particularly, Austria account for over 60 percent of Nigeria’s market for medical equipment. The United States account for about 30 percent of this market. There are trade opportunities for both new and refurbished medical equipment. Private hospitals and clinics are the primary end-users of refurbished and used medical equipment in Nigeria. Public hospitals may buy some used equipment on need basis through a special arrangement and conditions. For both new and used equipment, price is the most competitive factor followed by service support and product origin.
Nigeria remains a major destination for global export of healthcare products and services. Speaking at an official event to mark the World Cancer Day in Nigeria, the former Health Minister, Professor Adenike Grange said that Nigeria may record 500,000 cancer cases annually up from current level of 100,000 cases from the year 2010. To check this potential calamity, Nigeria needs to establish more centers to screen, treat and advise patients. Currently, many wealthy Nigerian travel to Europe, South Africa, the United States and Saudi Arabia to treat major sickness or diseases.
According to industry reports and market intelligence, malaria is one of the principal causes of illness and death in Nigeria. Current statistics indicate that nine out of ten deaths related to malaria that occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria, mostly among young children and pregnant women. Despite its economic burden, about USD12 billion in Nigeria and other African countries, this problem makes the country a growth market for U.S. equipment and medicines for preventing and treating malaria cases.
There is still a high demand for medical services and equipment such as analytical and examination instruments, ultrasound scans, anesthesia equipment, mortuary and laboratory equipment. In addition to public sector demand, the private sector accounts for much of Nigeria’s imports and a significant percentage of informal exports to West Africa. As in previous years, refurbished and used medical equipment will remain in high demand, particularly in the private sector.
Opportunities exist in Nigeria for professional training and environmental services in the healthcare sector. There is a dearth of specialist expertise in many specialized fields and a near absence of cutting-edge technology application in most healthcare institutions in Nigeria.