Read the Conversation

EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, and 2021 was the year of vaccines. What will 2022 be the year off?

CT: 2022 will be a year of exploration, challenges and navigation in this new world. There will be a new normal consisting of what I call “the new fluid.” It is a new world that is emerging from the post vaccines. A key discussion is around the ‘New Industrial Revolution, which has arrived and now we're trying to figure out how we cope with that as a society with the opportunities and pile of challenges. There will be wins and there will be losses, but lessons will come from those losses.  

EF: What was the mission that you set for yourself on the appointment and has this changed?

CT: When South Africa became available, I took the opportunity. I wanted to come to Africa and do something worthy for the people. I believe that Bayer is an agent for good, and we can do the right things, which means running a profitable business whilst ensuring that our medicines become more ubiquitous for masses who deserve them across Africa, that's my vision. Women's health is a massive part of our portfolio and I intend to extend the reach of this. Along with the sustainability agenda, there are a hundred million women who can benefit from modern contraception by the end of the decade, this is a considerable objective to have when you are already the leading women's health pharmaceutical company.  

What we need to do is triangulate these things, have a robust commercial operation working with NGOs, which we do with the Clinton Foundation, and Grants Foundation exceedingly well, and ensure that the sustainability agenda triangulates those things. With those three points, the whole is greater than the individual parts. We work together to make sure that we are building a women's health infrastructure in Africa, that is not just reliant on aid but will be there after the NGOs depart. It's the next place where we're going to get growth for the world economy. It's going to be important that we use those opportunities and the infrastructure there as the economies and the countries develop and grow.

There are 650 million people within my new cluster. I am excited by the opportunity to bring our brilliant medicines and our way of thinking, which is about being more inclusive and having greater access to our medicines to a broader population. But we know there's a lot to be done.

EF: What was Bayer South Africa's response to the pandemic?

CT: We did a multitude of things, we ensured that PPE equipment was purchased for many of the institutions across Sub-Sahara, and we also bought ventilators as well for key hospitals across Sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding the emotional impact of dealing with COVID-19 was a key lesson, as well as seeing our employees and recognizing them as heroes.  

We provided psychological support for our workers through an agency that specializes in supporting healthcare professionals, COVID-19 exacerbated the stress of key workers. People went through incredibly challenging times and we were there to help them. We did what we could with resources, psychological support, and physical support of money and equipment, but what is also important is highlighting the long-term negative consequences of COVID-19. They get pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis because of the complications. This was a national as well as a local initiative, bringing thought leaders, and experts in that field on webinars, as everybody turns to Zoom and Teams. We educated and provided as much information as possible to the healthcare professionals.

We were all learning as we went through but were honest partners in making sure that we shared all that information the best that we could and ensured that there was dialogue and communication between healthcare professionals so that they could share their own experiences as well. We have great relationships with a number of fantastic healthcare professionals that at times just needed a virtual arm around the shoulder, and we provided that.  

EF: Could you elaborate on the footprint of Bayer in the healthcare market?  

CT: Crop Science is the biggest part of the business with agriculture being a considerable part of the economy across Sub-Saharan Africa. This section also has a sustainability goal which supports small-holder farmers. All parts of the conglomerate are doing their level best to try and reach out across Africa, and whilst we work with the big wholesalers and farmers, we also work with the smaller ones, which is part of Bayer’s ethos. One example of that would be  Unjani Clinics, which is a container that is converted into a small medical facility that we support physically, providing the cash, but also help train individuals within those that then get put into the townships and more rural areas where access is a challenge.

Bayer is a part of the community, that is our ethos, our sole incentive is not financial but to also make sure that we sustain the community and look after the community that is looking after us. Considering the history of Bayer in the region, we have positive feedback. That Bayer name is well respected, but you only get that respect by having equitable and meaningful relationships with all of your customers.

EF: What is your perspective on the use of Artificial Intelligence and technology in South Africa's pharma industry? Does Bayer have any examples of this?

CT: It’s coming and will have considerable utility, particularly in areas which have unmet healthcare needs. That is where the new technology will fill that gap, where you are resource-constrained and the level of infrastructure has room for development. This is an advantage of being a large organization that can take the technology and the thinking that's developed with an eye to supporting our goal. Health for all is at the core of Bayer’s ethos and technology will help us move forward and hit that aspiration.

Mobile phones are key examples due to their widespread usage. The aspects made available by the devices include monitoring individuals, checking diagnostic, and prognosis. That's the sort of technology on offer and opportunity that we have in countries like those that aren't responsible.

EF: Can you elaborate on the portfolio performance of Bayer South Africa?

CT: Business has bounced back to a high-quality standard. We have a cardiovascular portfolio and we have a medicine that treats thrombotic risk. This had great utility through COVID and saved lives by preventing DBT or pulmonary embolism. Women's health continues to be the mainstay of our business and we are continuing our innovations in that area.  

Our long-acting contraception is now on state tender in South Africa, which means now more women can access modern long-term contraception and ensure that women are able to come out of poverty, own their own lives, and become empowered. That portfolio continues to grow but the tender remains at a very low price, that's the balance between having a sustainable business and making sure that we're doing the right things by making our medicines more accessible to people. The oncology portfolio is set to provide a significant contribution alongside new cardiovascular medicines coming to treat the huge unmet healthcare need in Africa.  

In terms of ensuring accessible pricing, we have a P3 Initiative which tiers the pricing of our new medicines. If it's a developed country, they get one price. If it's an underdeveloped country, they get the lowest price. This initiative ensures that medicines are more affordable and for more people across Africa.

EF: What advice would you give to other leaders regarding creating a positive social impact?

CT: We need to look holistically at business and recognize that we have a responsibility to everyone across society. We need to show leadership to ensure that when we say things like health for all, we do something about it and that for me is the most important thing.  

Doing good and contributing in this way is also what motivates our staff. Our representatives are part of the community and part of society. We release immense potential across the organization because of our people.

EF: How do you keep your employee engaged?

CT: We need a mindset that says we can do stuff in a digital environment almost as good as we could do it face-to-face. There is an immense amount of creativity and innovation when it comes to digital engagement. Honestly, I've been absolutely blown away. We’ve now had four virtual conferences and people are almost as energized at the end of the day than they would be in a face-to-face setting because people have really thought about it and they do quizzes and they do crazy things. We had a TV presenter come on and tell us about lighting and what we need to do.

It's just a whole new set of skills that people need to learn. With the right mindset, it works. I'm a great believer in the hybrid model because it's improved people's lives immeasurably. People have seen their families, people are not sitting in traffic causing a ridiculous amount of pollution and environmental damage. But face-to-face is necessary too, for the right thing, it's finding the right medium to get the right outcome.

EF: What would be the new skill set you are looking for when you are hiring new people to your company to be able to work in this environment?

CT: We abide by reverse mentoring. I am finding out stuff every single day from the generation that has lived and been brought up in the digital age. What we're looking for is learning agility, that is the single most important thing. Tell me what you learned last week, that's what I'm interested in.

EF: At the end of this year, what are you going to celebrate to?

CT: I will be celebrating a new cluster coming together. All these countries that encompass 650 million people come together to help deliver for those people. But the whole being greater than some of the parts, this is the beauty of bringing. The strength of an organization is exemplified by the different experiences, cultures, and views. When you have a diverse and inclusive organization that comes with all these different aspects, we can synthesize them into something that's going to help everyone else. If I can play a part in bringing that together, I'd be delighted.

May 2022
South Africa