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EF: What kind of initiatives are you currently working on, and what are you most excited about bringing to Africa?  

CT: There are several initiatives, particularly our Bayer initiative to enable 100 million more women in low-and-middle-income households to access contraception by the end of the decade. We have also brought long-acting contraception into the state tender in South Africa at a much lower cost than the private sector. We are working in partnership with all the provinces, clinicians, and nurses to fit intrauterine system (IUS) devices. This makes a massive difference in women’s lives. We have taken a global view, but we are tangibly doing something about it to make sure that women are not only able to access IUS devices, but can affordably access them, and this is what Africa needs.  

Access to oncology and other advanced medicines in Africa is necessary, but not intensively compared to women’s health given that women are still dying during childbirth. To make the most significant difference, efforts focused on women’s health are heavily required. We have the Ghana Heart initiative working with GIZ to educate and bring to the forefront cardiovascular disease, so it’s not just women’s health. If anyone wants to help Africa, democratizing women is the first step. I have helped the organization integrate its thinking more effectively, partnering with NGOs and the government to ensure we dovetail all the different initiatives. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts; rather than each working in isolation, we can work together much more effectively.  

EF: What advice would you give to create these collaborative spaces?  

CT: Trust is at the center of everything; open communication and ensuring that people understand each other’s agenda openly and honestly one can find the sweet spot to work together. In some places, we can collaborate; in others, we can’t, whether because of our compliances or government limitations. However, we can always find a way through good, open, and honest communication. It’s not rocket science. But one must try; meeting so many roadblocks can be frustrating. It requires resilience to stick with it and find opportunities to collaborate. It takes a while to build trust between different actors and different sectors.  

EF: Regarding sustainability, what advice would you give to other leaders who want to stay sustainable in the long run?  

CT: There are two sides to sustainability: First environmental sustainability. Bayer’s objective is to be carbon neutral by 2030, talk about it quite a bit, and measure ourselves against the goals we have set. The first step is to discuss the goals, and not just any goals but those that we can all be accountable for. Sustainability from a pharmaceutical perspective is similar. Communicating and understanding what we are trying to achieve globally but then asking, “What does that mean for me, my organization, and the people working in it?”. Objectives should be co-created with customers and stakeholders and then monitor the advance towards those objectives. Some things can be ethereal if not watched and if progress is not checked. The follow-up is not to call people out but to celebrate successes or figure out if there are changes to be made. Monitoring what is said and done is essential to rectify the course of action if objectives are not achieved.  

EF: Can you share how your portfolio is evolving in South Africa?  

CT: We have had many innovative medicines come in, and like all companies, oncology is the future and is becoming more specialized. The utility of our existing brands and classic brands in women’s health is still massively underutilized and my job is to figure out how to make the most out of these established products and how to get them to more women in Africa, which requires getting the price, channels, distribution, and marketing right. We are placing more emphasis on online education and the team is connecting with more women via digital platforms due to limited resources. We recently launched a hackathon in South Africa with the aim of discussing how we can use digital tools to connect to more women to access the contraception they need. Connecting with the maximum number of women across Africa requires one to be resourceful. There are 650 million people in the cluster and 150 people in my organization. That said, it’s rather a challenge to connect with them all directly, so it’s about finding new innovative and creative ways of connecting with all healthcare partners and women patients.  

EF: You recently had FDA approval for Artificial Intelligence software. Can you tell us more about that?  

CT: There is so much innovation going on. We’ve already had artificial intelligence in the design of drugs, and the next giant leap will be precision medicine. Medicine can be tailored to the individual. In the past, we were required to run trials of 30,000 plus people for the vast majority to benefit. It’s important to understand everyone’s genome and try to tailor those medicines so that they precisely work. That kind of precision medicine is still a long way off in Africa.  

However, a more realistic view of the near future may be more like putting your thumb on a mobile phone, detecting high blood pressure, and receiving medication to treat that. It’s not precision medicine, but it is getting an intervention to people who didn’t have it before—getting intervention cost-effectively to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to treatment. Precision gene therapy probably isn’t coming to Africa soon; it will go first to Europe and a few Western countries because of the cost factor associated with this technology. But there are other mechanisms that we can use that leverage technology to get appropriate, cost-effective interventions to people across Africa that aren’t accessing anything now. Although widespread gene therapy on the African continent may be a long way off, we can still leverage existing technologies more effectively than we are, which will require education, which is what we are trying to do with the hackathon.  

EF:  What is the Bayer Plant in Nigel dedicated to producing?  

CT: It is a plant for the Bayer Crop Science division where crop protection products are filled, formulated and distributed from. Crop Science is a much bigger business than the Pharmaceutical division. Bayer is using the last mile approach, thinking about getting seeds and crop protection products to the smallholder farmer, and the same strategies can be used to get Consumer Health products that may have utility into patients’ hands. We try to collaborate between Crop and Pharma to get medicine, seeds, or whatever they need to the communities that wouldn’t necessarily be able to access them otherwise.  

EF: How do you see the market evolving regarding human resources? How are the skill sets evolving, and what skills are you seeking in new Bayer employees?  

CT: We run an internship and a graduate program, and most positions focus on digital content creation. We bring in brilliant University graduates for 12–18-month contracts on the road to a fruitful career. On a massive continent with so many underserved people, most people have access to a phone, and the key is to develop meaningful content. I am keen on bringing in as many people as possible from underprivileged backgrounds because their experiences help to develop solutions which better resonate with the underserved communities on the continent. Digital savvy, effective communication, and lived experiences are the qualities that we look for. We need more Gen-Z and millennials in the business and it’s important to offer something meaningful, something more than just a salary in order to draw them to the mission. There is a Hindu word called Sevā which means “helping those that cannot help themselves.” If you can tap into that desire, it is quite powerful. We are trying to protect people who can’t defend themselves. We need to serve people who might have had a stroke if they didn’t have access to our medicines or who can plan their families when they previously couldn’t. It's therefore vital to have employees who are invested in this bigger mission.  

EF: How are you finding a way to implement an integrated healthcare system in South Africa?  

CT: We must do much more to successfully integrate our health system and result in the best possible patient outcomes. We must prioritize ensuring they can access the treatment they need, but we have a long way to go to reach that shared understanding. We should be looking for creative and innovative ways to bring medicines to the people who need them, and there is no consistent framework at the moment.  

To get past that, we must be creative, pilot new strategies, and take risks. We need to be willing to have some failures from having tried something different. That way, we might find a better way of doing things. There is too much focus on acquisition costs and not enough focus on patient outcomes. Focusing on patient outcomes is about looking at different mechanisms; that require compromise from us and health insurers, and the patients themselves. We need open-mindedness on all sides to find creative ways to bring medicines to the people who most need them.  

EF: Is there anything we haven’t asked you about that you want to share with us?  

CT: Africa is an amazing place with great opportunities. It is one of the few continents that is growing and where there will be opportunity. We can maximize that by being open-minded and collaborative in how we try to deliver healthcare to the people of South Africa and Africa in general. 

August 2023
South Africa