Envision Africa: Custom Designed Healthcare
African patients benefit from targeted high-quality made-in-China medical equipment
Jason Wang(Wang Jili), General Manager of Mindray Africa, talks about Mindray’s Africa strategy and how the company strives to meet the real needs of Africa’s medical community with CHINAFRICA, China’s Africa-focused national press.
The report is published in CHINAFRICA’s April issue and the press’s front page online. Read full report with Jason Wang and his Mindray Africa team.
Courtesy of CHINAFRICA journalist Liu Jian.
Wang Jili (left), General Manager of Mindray Africa, introduces the company's healthcare solutions to the Egyptian health delegation visiting China in February 2017
One of the most vulnerable sections of the population in Africa is pregnant women. The reasons for this come down to a range of issues, the most critical being local customs, poverty, and the remoteness of many villages. These women often lack even the most basic prenatal examinations, resulting in high newborn mortality rates. To address this challenge, advanced medical diagnostic techniques such as ultrasound are vitally needed in many areas on the continent.
Fortunately, Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co., one of the leading global providers of medical devices and solutions headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, works with the Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society to deliver ultrasound devices along with educational and training sessions in support of prenatal clinics.
"Thanks to Mindray's support, we are introducing local obstetricians to the field of ultrasound scanning. And with this initiative, we aim to provide mothers-to-be with early diagnosis and appropriate follow-up care," said Sudhir Vinayak, President of the African Society of Radiology.
Mindray is just one example of the many Chinese medical equipment companies encouraged by the Chinese Government to invest in the African market.
China plans to help Africa improve the availability of health and diagnostic services and commodities, as well as improve Africa's capacity for independent and sustainable development in the field of health and medical care, according to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-18).
Bridging supply and demand
Statistics show that an underdeveloped medical equipment industry has caused 90 percent of African countries, with the exception of South Africa, Egypt and a few other North African countries, to rely heavily on imported medical supplies. This has been partnered with a 7.5-percent annual growth of medical equipment demand in the African market in recent years, according to the research report of Datamonitor, an international consulting firm.
"The opportunities come from African countries' increasing demand for public and private medical services and building a modern healthcare system," said Wang Jili, Mindray's General Manager of Africa.
In November 2016, along with the International Health Exchange and Cooperation Center (IHECC), an entity under China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, Mindray joined hands with Chongqing Haifu Medical Technology Co., Shenyang-based Neusoft Medical Systems Co. and China-Africa Development Fund to establish a special fund to finance Chinese medical equipment companies to invest in Africa.
"China has a lot of cost-effective and good-quality health products and devices, while Africa has a great demand for these products. We hope to build a platform for financing and information exchange to bridge the supply and demand and bring affordable medical products to benefit African patients," said Gao Weizhong, Head of IHECC.
Investing in and extending services to the African continent for 15 years, Mindray has established four subsidiaries in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria, providing products and services to all African countries.
Ranging across three key lines - patient monitoring and life support, in-vitro diagnostic devices and medical imaging systems, Mindray's products are widely used by both public and private hospitals, as well as some NGOs.
The company has participated in Kenyan government healthcare projects in around 100 hospitals across the country, offering services to 80 percent of its population.
So far, the company has installed 196 operation rooms in 94 hospitals with hundreds of anesthesia workstations, ventilators, operation tables and surgical lights along with magnetic resonance imaging systems in 20 key county hospitals throughout the country.
A Kenyan doctor uses Mindray’s hand-carried color ultrasound device to do prenatal examinations in a rural community
Meeting Africa's needs
The African market is highly sensitive to the price of medical equipment, because of the lack of funding, said Ma Qiyuan, President and CEO of Time Medical holding Co., a Chinese medical diagnostic imaging company.
"Different from West European and North American markets, African countries have high requirements in terms of the ease of use and maintenance of the devices, due to backward infrastructure and inadequate medical professionals," said Ma.
Then how do Chinese manufacturers meet the needs of the African market?
"We have our African experts and local employees who frequently bring back information regarding demand and feedback from our dealers and end users to our headquarters," said Wang.
In addition, Mindray also holds workshops on a regular basis. "Doctors make suggestions [on equipment improvement] for workshops, which we take and forward to the research and development department," Dusan Simovic told ChinAfrica. Simovic is a Johannesburg-based product manager for English-speaking African countries in Mindray's International Marketing Department.
To better meet doctors' needs in rural communities and remote areas, the company has developed portable devices, and products with uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems to deal with unstable power supply problems.
"Also, our hand-carried color ultrasound device is popular in remote areas in Africa as it is easy to carry and convenient to use by local medical practitioners in making ultrasound scanning," he added.
As power shortage prevails in many African countries, "our products have UPS systems and backups built in. Almost every single piece of equipment we provide to hospitals has the system to compensate for the power problem," said Simovic.
Promoting "made in China"
When Mindray first entered Africa in 2003, it was challenged by the fact that some local customers had a misunderstanding of made-in-China devices, which they equated to cheap products of poor quality. The market, at that time, was dominated by Western multinational companies from the United States and Europe.
Market research shows that skills training and after-sales services are key to Mindray's African business. Local doctors used to struggle to master all the functions of the devices they bought, and also they could hardly find timely repair when their devices went wrong. Mindray has now attached greater importance to providing their African customers with more necessary professional training and efficient services while improving the quality of its products.
Mindray has given special attention to customers' specific needs and after-sales services. "After doctors used our machines, they found we provided better solutions for their needs, at half the price of our competitors' with much better services," said Simovic. "Through their experiences, we gradually won their trust and entered the market," he added.
"Mindray's M9 hand-carried color ultrasound device definitely brings me the image I never expected from a Chinese supplier. It's as good as devices from high-end international brands without doubt," said Harshavadan Ratilal Mackanjee, head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban, South Africa. "It provides what I need, no matter the image quality or advanced functions," he added.
"The medical equipment industry is driven by research and development, through which we bring technological innovations and meet our customers' clinical needs," said Zhou Zhiyuan, Sales Supervisor in the South African Branch Office of Mindray's International Sales Department. "Every year we invest 10 percent of total sales revenue into ongoing research and development efforts, and release 10 new devices on average, each of which employs at least 10 of our patented technologies," he added.
Since its establishment in 1991, Mindray has built up an extensive market and service network with 32 branches in China and 42 international branches in 32 countries, serving more than 190 countries and regions.
Apart from providing medical equipment, Mindray also helps cultivate local professionals. Every year, it invites famous global experts to give onsite training to hundreds of local medical personnel in African countries.
"Strengthening training and after-sales services is an effective way of building a firm foundation for us to further develop in emerging markets," said Zhou.