Read the Conversation

EF: What upcoming opportunities are you anticipating in the next part of the year, and what are you most excited about next? 

RB: When considering the African landscape, certain nations within the region are grappling with challenging economic circumstances. This includes factors such as scarcity of hard currency, currency devaluation, and constrained budgets. This prevailing situation is further compounded by a consistent outflow of medical practitioners from key African regions. Olympus will continue to focus on disease states in specialties where it can have the greatest impact on elevating the standard of care and as a clear leader in gastroenterology, urology, and respiratory care, building a presence in growth markets that offer significant, long-term potential. Our foremost priority is advancing disease management.  

In tandem with this goal, Olympus recognizes the paramount significance of professional education and training across Africa. This pivotal aspect is highly regarded within our mission as a global MedTech leader. We are unwavering in our dedication to equipping healthcare professionals in this region with essential training, ensuring the adept utilization of our products. This endeavor extends to fostering early detection and treatment of cancer, thus solidifying our contribution to healthcare enhancement throughout African nations and improving patient outcomes. 

EF: How do you perceive the evolution of therapeutic areas across Africa? Is a consistent strategy applied throughout the continent, or do you foresee the implementation of varied approaches? 

RB: Spanning the expanse of the African continent, the primary focus centers on fostering awareness for the timely identification of cancer. Within our industry, this objective holds exceptional significance. Olympus’ efforts extend beyond technologies and professional education, encompassing targeted campaigns that emphasize the pivotal importance of early cancer detection. The impact of early-stage detection is undeniable, often rendering treatment more effective. 

We are working on expanding our influence within burgeoning African markets. Our presence in Africa entails forging solid long-lasting collaborations with local distributors aiming at providing best in class service and support to our customers. Our aim is also to raise visibility about cancer and its early detection while fostering mutually beneficial partnerships. Through these partnerships and localized presence, we contribute to our overarching objective:  of improving patient outcomes by elevating the standard of care. 

EF: What role does Africa play for Olympus? 

RB: Our approach varies across the region, particularly in the East. Some markets have achieved maturity, while others are in the stages of development. Our role is to improve the standard of care by enhancing the knowledge and skills of physicians. Our footprint in Africa comprises a network of over 25 distributors and resellers. We're dedicated to bolstering the Olympus presence with a primary focus on approximately 15 countries. We extend access to cutting-edge Olympus technology and solutions across Africa, complemented by our rigorous training and professional education for medical practitioners. 

Participation in local initiatives and campaigns underscores our dedication to raising public awareness about early cancer detection. While our reach doesn't span every corner of Africa, our impactful footprint is a launchpad for transformative campaigns, laying the groundwork for a steadfast and sustainable trajectory of progress. 

EF: How do you evaluate the acceptance and responsiveness of doctors and patients towards these emerging technologies? 

RB: Our commitment transcends mere equipment commercialization. It's about ensuring that adept clinicians and doctors are equipped to utilize our technology effectively. This extends to nurturing the next generation of medical professionals, particularly in the face of significant doctor migration from African nations to Europe and the Middle East. A continuous stream of medical education programs is the cornerstone of our resolve. 

EF: What is your approach when collaborating with partners in Africa, and what attributes do you seek in partners to foster growth? 

RB: In the complex landscape, particularly in Africa, partner selection is deliberative. Our focus is forging enduring, dependable alliances. This selection is marked by meticulousness; we invest time in identifying partners who align with our values. Our criteria extend beyond technology adoption. We seek partners with robust networks, customer relations, and adept support capabilities. This holistic approach ensures that our technology's impact is maximized. Our measured expansion underscores this strategy as we steadily amplify our presence to establish steadfast partnerships across Africa. 

EF: Could you share the countries or regions you're focusing on and any insights you can offer about upcoming developments? 

RB: Let's delve into a specific country, Kenya. as an example. In Kenya, cancer ranks as the third leading cause of mortality, with esophageal, colorectal, and gastric cancers marking the forefront of gastro-related health concerns. The scarcity of highly skilled gastroenterologists compounds these challenges. Olympus is deeply engaged in Kenya's progress. In collaboration with the International Medical Department of Japan’s Kyushu University Hospital, we are steadfastly involved in a developmental support initiative. This comprehensive program focuses on training Kenyan physicians in gastroenterology, prioritizing early detection and treatment of cancer. Our efforts include training sessions led by Japanese physicians within Kenyan hospitals. Additionally, our partnership extends to Kenyan physicians gaining valuable experience in Japanese medical centers, facilitated by funding from the Japanese government's projects for global medical technology growth. 

The strides made in Kenya stand as a beacon of progress and a testament to successful collaboration. This remarkable journey showcases how our contributions elevate endoscopy within such dynamic African markets. 

EF: What are your anticipations regarding AI? How can it be leveraged and used in Africa, and how do you see it evolving in the African context? 

RB: AI has swiftly transitioned from a future concept to a pervasive reality, now omnipresent in various domains, including the MedTech industry. Following our recent acquisition of Odin Vision, Olympus will provide advanced AI-powered real-time diagnosis in minimally invasive solutions and data-driven insights that transform patient care, improving clinical and procedural workflows. With this, our emphasis on digital health has gained momentum, as it facilitates collaborative and efficient teamwork, heightening patient care through data-driven approaches.  I hope that our digital ventures will extend to Africa, where healthcare providers are poised to gain from data-enriched software solutions. This comprehensive approach encompasses the entire endoscopic workflow, from preparation through procedure to post-procedural analysis. This endeavor holds significant promise, particularly in bolstering doctors' proficiency and informed decision-making, supported by AI, thus ushering in a transformative era in the African medical landscape. Anticipate its arrival – it's on the horizon. 

EF: How receptive are African governments to adopting and integrating the latest technology? How does this compare to the Middle East's approach to technology adoption? 

RB: Indeed, the pursuit of excellence in healthcare is universal, driven by a desire for the best equipment and solutions in hospitals and nations. However, diverse budgets across regions, such as the Middle East and Africa, require a nuanced approach. While we aim to introduce cutting-edge technology universally, we're attuned to the variations in financial capacities. We offer a versatile portfolio catering to different economic scenarios in regions where budgets might be constrained. Balancing top-tier technology and practical solutions that align with available resources is crucial. This approach is evident in various countries where varying budgets dictate the scope of technology adoption. 

The core approach lies in acquiring technology and ensuring that healthcare professionals are well-versed and equipped. The equipment's potential is realized when matched with well-trained professionals. Therefore, our commitment extends beyond technology provision to encompass training and education, amplifying the effective use of the equipment and contributing to the early detection of cancer across African regions. 

EF: How do you attract and retain talent that thinks the way you are transpiring this message right now, and what skill set do you look for in someone in your team? 

RB: Throughout my career, I've held a steadfast belief in the pivotal role of people and teams. They form the cornerstone of any strategic blueprint or long-term vision From my initial days at Olympus, I've prioritized fostering an open and empathetic culture marked by fairness, a positive mindset, solution-driven attitudes, equitable relationships, and unwavering trust. Creating this enduring culture and organizational loyalty hinges on these foundational principles. Recognizing that employees dedicate most of their time to work, our focus extends beyond mere salaries. It encompasses the quality of each day from 8 to 5. Achieving this is no small feat, especially in the MEA region, where expertise abounds, and talent is key and somewhat scarce. Amid this landscape, my commitment lies in nurturing an environment where employees feel valued, content, appreciated and motivated to invest their time, and energy to take the business to different levels and help in improving patients' lives in this part of the world.  

EF: How would you like to be remembered? 

RB: I hold both personal and team expectations to a high standard, which I established from day one during my 30-year journey in Medtech. The dynamics and demanding nature of the region require proactive engagement where Agility, Unity, Long-term view, Empathy and Integrity become key differentiating aspects for success. This mindset is in line with Olympus' direction and vision through technological investments in AI and other advancements, promising a positive future. 

Combining these elements fuels my optimism and ambitions for the region. Driving the team, we're focused on building strong foundations throughout the Middle East and Africa region. Our mission is to make people’s lives healthier, safer and more fulfilling. Olympus is poised to make significant contributions towards this purpose leaving a positive mark on the region's success story. 

EF: Is there any final message you would like to share? 

RB: In the region, significant growth opportunities exist, particularly in addressing the pressing technological needs and educational gaps. It's essential for our industry to foster robust partnerships, guiding institutions through effective campaigns and elevating practices to higher standards. Establishing a solid foundation for this endeavor requires time and diligence. 

Our role in enhancing patients' lives is truly fulfilling, and I take immense pride in our organization's impactful contributions. 

September 2023