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Chinese pharmaceutical firms eye bigger footprint in Africa as economic ties blossom

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-09-16 10:31

NAIROBI - Braving the mid-morning chill that enveloped the bustling downtown business district of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Friday, visitors to the Medic East Africa Exhibition and Congress were drawn to stands occupied by Chinese manufacturers of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment.

The sizable crowd that gathered at the stand of EcoMed Industry Company Limited, a manufacturer of medical devices for operating theaters, took a prolonged gaze at the products on display while seeking explanations from attendants.

Jessy Zhang, the sales representative for EcoMed, who has visited Kenya several times in the past, said she had spoken with potential clients who expressed confidence in Chinese-manufactured theater equipment.

"In the past three days, we have been receiving visitors, and the majority of them were drawn from the medical field. Some expressed readiness to buy our products," Zhang said.

The three-day exhibition, which ended on Friday, attracted a large number of visitors, including policymakers and healthcare professionals keen to gain insight into emerging trends in medical technology. Chinese manufacturers of health commodities were heavily represented at the exhibition hall, drawing visitors' curiosity by displaying sleek medical devices, including diagnostic kits, theater beds, and surgical equipment.

James Kamau, a middle-aged nurse working for a private clinic in Nairobi, said spending quality time at the EcoMed stand made him appreciate China's advances in medical technology. "Though we have installed some Chinese manufactured equipment at our clinic, I did not fully grasp the advances the country has made in the pharmaceutical industry."

Milling around the stand of Hangzhou Biotest Biotech Company Limited, a manufacturer of rapid tests for infectious diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, local visitors engaged Young Xu, the company's international sales representative, with palpable zeal.

Xu said based on a random survey, the Kenyan market for pharmaceutical products such as diagnostic kits and therapeutics has retained vibrancy, attracting interest from Chinese manufacturers.

According to Xu, Africa is the next frontier for the growth of the healthcare industry, with Kenya providing a launching pad to serve the larger East African region, given its improving infrastructure and energetic workforce.

Saloni Asnani, head of marketing for the Medic East Africa Exhibition and Congress, said the significant presence of overseas exhibitors, including Chinese, reaffirmed their confidence in the local market for health commodities.

"The Chinese are very interested in coming to the East African market, meeting with local dealers and distributors, and seeing what they have in store," Asnani said, adding that the event boosted Kenya's standing among foreign investors.

Kennedy Kyalo, a biomedical engineer who visited several exhibition stalls occupied by Chinese manufacturers of medical devices, said he was impressed by their quality and affordable pricing.

Kyalo said Kenya's health facilities will gain from importing diagnostic equipment manufactured in China to address shortages and revolutionize the treatment of diseases through accurate and verifiable investigations.

Despite stiff competition, Chinese manufacturers of medical products are prepared to spread their tentacles across the African market for the long haul, said Lilian Hou, the sales director of Hysen (Hangzhou) Biotech Company Limited.

Hou singled out Chinese manufacturers of rapid diagnostic tests as well-placed to gain a competitive edge on the continent as it seeks effective ways to deal with a high burden of infectious diseases like malaria.

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