Interview with Paul Simms, Chairman, EyeForPharma on Healthcare in South Africa

Paul Simms is Chairman of eyeforpharma, an organisation famous for brokering pharma-government meetings across continents.

We want to bring disparate and entrenched parties together to create solutions for the betterment of South African healthcare” – Paul Simms.eyeforpharma logoPlease introduce eyeforpharma.

Our mission is to make pharma more open and valued. We do this not by working with individual pharma companies, but by bringing the industry together to hear and see the very best work being done, and to find new partnerships. This will raise the bar for everyone.

In which industries does eyeforpharma operate and who are its clients?

We operate all over the world, though we are now operating in Africa for the first time, which is exciting. Our customers are almost exclusively pharmaceutical executives and the other stakeholders which can advance pharma in getting the medicines/services to those who need them. Like all of us, however, our ultimate customer is the patient.

eyeforpharma is organizing its first conference in Africa in March 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. What is the objective of this conference?

Constructive collaboration! Above all else, we want to bring disparate and entrenched parties together to create solutions for the betterment of South African healthcare. Our research confirmed that the lack of communication and alignment between stakeholders has reached unprecedented levels, at a time when other countries are harmonizing and partnering for mutual benefit.

We go where our services are required. In 2014 and 2015 we received a surge of requests from local pharmaceutical executives who saw what we were doing in other parts of the world and recognized that an independent group like eyeforpharma could bring the parties together on neutral territory. We spoke to around 100 individuals to fine-tune the agenda and focus for the event: it became clear that all parties wanted to talk and make progress but felt unable to do so.

Is this a one-time event or is there a plan to establish a foothold in Africa?

As I mentioned, we go where our services are required. It comes down to the South African pharma industry whether we establish a base there. Of course, we hope to do so!

Why is this a good time to move into the African Market?

Because Africa has asked for us to come. We are not here for economic or political reasons.

Is South Africa a possible entry point into the African Market, or are there other countries of interest?

At the moment, we are focused only on South Africa because that is where we have seen the demand. We are, however, very open-minded about going elsewhere.

What is your opinion on the health sector in Africa, and how do you think eyeforpharma’s entry will be received?

Although eyeforpharma is headquartered in London, we have several South African staff on the team, including our Head of Operations Blair Gottscho. So we have long been aware of the historical and cultural issues which have brought the region to the position it is in today. Of course we don’t expect to have everything perfect on our first event, but the fundamental design of bringing the parties together with a progressive agenda on neutral territory and lots of free networking time is a very simple yet compelling one. So we are confident. We have no specific agenda other than to have a popular event which advances the pharmaceutical industry and public at large.

What, in your opinion, can be done by entrepreneurs and governments to improve the health sector in Africa?

The public and private sector need to be able to work together if we are to have a sustainable healthcare system. With high unemployment putting a strain on public healthcare finances, with fewer contributors to national health insurance, the private sector is required to step in – as long as it can be done in an honest, trustworthy and constructive way. I believe pharmaceutical managers are generally smart enough to prioritize public health for their own long-term business prospects in the region, and therefore that solutions are possible.

It starts with good dialogue and a concrete plan. We can help with that.

What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of eyeforpharma in 2016?

While we are a commercial organization, our reason for existence is to advance the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore I would personally like to see the industry become more trusted and valued by others, such that it becomes an important-decision maker in the future of local healthcare. Pharma companies still have so much unused expertise and untapped potential.

eyeforpharma, a business intelligence company headquartered in London, UK, organises its first conference in South Africa on March 8-9, Johannesburg.


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