Read the Conversation

EF: What are the priorities and the role of Olympus in North and West Africa?   

SS: I oversee North and West Africa, including all African French-speaking countries, while Egypt is managed by our Middle East branch. “Our focus in Africa is to facilitate access to our equipment to elevate the standard of care and to continue making people’s lives healthier, safer, and more fulfilling.” 

At Olympus, our mission is to improve patient outcomes. We achieve this by collaborating with local distributors in each country, who act as our representatives for hospitals and patients. Our shared goal is to serve the healthcare professionals and their patients, thereby, elevating the standard of care.   

EF: What products in your portfolio are you bringing into the region, and which therapeutic areas are you currently prioritizing?  

Olympus has shifted its focus to the medical business and has clarified the direction of the business in its Company Strategy announced in May 2023, with the aim of achieving further growth by elevating the standard of care in targeted disease states where Olympus can have a market-leading impact.  

Healthcare practitioners rely on Olympus for its minimally invasive solutions in gastroenterology, respiratory and urology, offering a comprehensive portfolio in the treatment of the top 3 cancers (lung, colorectum stomach). “Our products can be applied in different steps of the patient care pathway, from early detection to treatment.”  

Olympus versatile medical devices address about 100 diseases or conditions. We also excel in real-time equipment reprocessing, ensuring impeccable sterilization to meet hygiene standards.  

In the surgical section, we focus on a mixture of medical specialities and product areas. Our extensive presence covers a wide range of medical fields, supported by an efficient IT platform that facilitates information transformation.   

EF: Olympus focuses on minimally invasive treatments, and these may be costly for the African population. How are you increasing access to these treatments in Africa?  

SS: Our treatments prioritize minimal invasiveness to improve treatment outcomes, reducing trauma by avoiding the need for extensive incisions. However, to expand access to these procedures in Africa, we face a crucial challenge: the scarcity of doctors who are both qualified and experienced in endoscopic procedures. To address this matter, comprehensive training and education on our equipment becomes essential.  

Training doctors is only the first step; ensuring their proficient use of the equipment is equally important. To tackle this issue, we are actively seeking partnerships to facilitate access to our medical equipment for various countries, healthcare facilities, and African governments. We understand the financial constraints some countries may encounter, and we believe that Africa deserves access to best-in-class technology. Thus, we are committed to finding innovative solutions to bring more resources to the continent, fostering better healthcare opportunities.  

EF: How are you implementing and utilizing AI and digitalization in Africa?  

SS: AI is unquestionably an important facilitator for the future of Medtech. Olympus is developing AI technology dedicated to our gastroenterological products. We are at various stages of implementation. Some countries have an interest, while others are still lagging. AI can be used to assist healthcare practitioners in improving detection, diagnosis, as well as treatment.   

There is a priority to educate doctors and surgeons to be able to perform basic procedures. Concerning detection, AI would be a game changer in helping us detect diseases, help with diagnosis, treatment and improve patient outcomes.  

EF: Collaboration is very important. What do you look for in a partner?  

SS: Firstly, we need to have one common understanding; our purpose should be the same: “make people’s lives healthier, safer and more fulfilling.” From a commercial aspect, we are looking for long-term partnerships. We need partners dedicated to Olympus, with a strong presence on the ground, being close to our healthcare professionals and supporting their educational needs.   

Some partners are setting up academies, training centres as they understand the importance of training to elevate the standard of care in Africa. Bringing these educational solutions into the region is another way to facilitate access to education and is a demonstration of long-term commitment.  

EF: Could you elaborate on what changes can be put into play to generate commitment and long-term partnerships? Do you think Africa values these partnerships?  

SS: Yes. It is our responsibility to make sure the benefits of this cooperation are understood and valued by all. Elevating the standard of care is only possible through long-term partnerships, between med-tech companies and their local partners, healthcare organization, practitioners, and governments. With our commitment to elevating the standard of care, we need to facilitate access to the latest technologies, and enhance local knowledge and expertise. Once all these elements are in place, keeping our equipment up and running is a priority and a challenge. It is our duty to educate and change mindsets on the importance of maintenance and make sure this is not seen as an extra cost but as a pillar of healthcare access. Our local partners are our relays in each country conveying the same message, working for the same purpose. Simultaneously, our commitment lies in enhancing their capabilities comprehensively across all aspects. Together, we can foster mutual growth and success.  

EF: You are celebrating five years in the company. After another five years, how would you want your legacy as a leader who managed this difficult period to be remembered?  

SS: My motivation lies in witnessing the success of the approaches and strategies we have implemented. The tangible developments we are achieving are truly fulfilling. Improving the lives of people in Africa is a source of immense pride and satisfaction for me.  

Having worked in various regions at Olympus, my experience in Africa has been eye-opening. The region faces significant challenges, Africa is the future. Africa's high future potential is undeniable, with the world's fastest-growing population, over 70 per cent being under 30 years old. The demand for healthcare is substantial. While challenges exist, our focus is on providing access to advanced healthcare for the people. This inspiring challenge ignites my passion, and I am confident that Olympus can contribute to Africa's transformative journey. Together, we can make a meaningful impact.  

August 2023
South Africa