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Health & Fitness

A welcome Korean injection for health

The three areas of diagnostics, pharma and human resource are all opportunity fields for international private sector firms.
The three areas of diagnostics, pharma and human resource are all opportunity fields for international private sector firms. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Nairobi last week hosted a bonanza of Korean orient, complete with film festival touching on the Asian nation. A development aid consultant suggests this new widened “diplomatic approach” could be aimed at ultimately translating into eased entry for South Korean industry players into the Kenyan marketplace.

Though the “Made in South Korea” tag is not common in our market, there seems to be quite some activity in the health sector from that nation recently. A previously low-key player in healthcare, a new trajectory is noted judging by activities in the field, starting from a 2017 “soft-launch” of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICAs) health agenda. A strategic train seems to be gathering steam.

The three areas of diagnostics, pharma and human resource are all opportunity fields for international private sector firms. Kenya is still 30 years behind in health systems compared to developed nations. According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) data, South Korean drug imports are not amongst our top five origin nations.

In the diagnostics side, some visibility is noted in devices originating from the country. The proposed Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), to be built in Konza City by 2021 if timelines are followed, will target the healthcare human resource training aspect.

As gleaned from KOICA’s Africa website, Kenya is not ranked amongst her top strategic partner nations, receiving just $7.1million allocation. In comparison, Ethiopia got $21million, Uganda $14.1million, Rwanda $10.1million and Tanzania $9.2million respectively. KOICAs “health diplomacy” expansion is observed in the support of Beyond Zero mobile clinics, county ambulances referrals and various Maternal Child Health outreaches in rural counties’. A few existing initiatives support training for medics.

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If you own a high end smartphone, probability is that you are using one from China, Korea or the United States. South Korea, home to global smartphone maker Samsung, is leveraging this smart chips technology in the bio-medical industry.

For frontline medics, Point of Care systems(POCs) are the new rave. Portability, multiple functionality and accuracy of diagnosis, are critical decision metrics in choice of device to buy. If the items also serve “cross-talk”, the better.

The Korean Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), the nation’s think tank for sector players, states its goal is to facilitate RD of new drugs and devices. The majority of the former being biomolecules in immunotherapy.

KHIDI seeks to push this extensive superiority in biosensors technology, research and development work into medical devices. Companies like SD Biosensors, angling to be the global leaders in the $31.5 billion biosensor industry especially for low and mid-tier consumers. To put it into perspective, if you think of Chinese phones, for health workers, it would be Korean POCs.

The SD line in particular is a proven workhorse handy for small standalone facilities especially for Non-Communicable Diseases POC devices.

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