The MENA (Middle East North Africa) region is one of the most rapidly growing healthcare markets. In the UAE (United Arab Emirates) alone, the forecast for the next five years is a 60% growth (to $28 billion). Thus, this region is increasing in focus among Swedish companies growing their business and this year, an all-time high number of Swedish companies exhibited and interacted with potential customers at Arab Health.
For the second consecutive year, Global Pharma Consulting hosted The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden, the largest of two Swedish pavilions at Arab Health, the other organized by Business Sweden. Ten of the larger Swedish companies e.g. Getinge, Elekta, GCE, RTI group had their own exhibition stands independent of the pavilions.
“Over the years, Swedish participation at Arab Health has grown steadily and this year, we had an all-time high of 42 Swedish companies present at Arab Health, 21 of which exhibited in The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden. This rapidly developing region has some specific healthcare needs and Sweden’s e-health platforms, world-famous quality registries, advances in cancer treatment and lifestyle diseases are all highly relevant and offer excellent opportunities for collaborations,” says Mr Niclas Jacobson, Deputy Director-General and Head of the Division for European Union and International Affairs at the Swedish Ministry of Health is a repeat visitor at Arab Health.
Other VIPs engaging in discussions in the pavilion included the Swedish Ambassadors from the UAE and Qatar, the Swecare Foundation, the UAE’s Ministry of Health & Prevention, the founder and chairman of the UAE Genetic Disease Association, and Sweden’s former Minister of Trade.
Visibility and networking are key
The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden featured a wide variety of Swedish life science services and solutions, including infection prevention, pharmaceutical development, immunoassay kits, body temperature management, skin care, robotics, quality registries, EKN (Exportkreditnämnden) and SIS the Swedish Standards Institute.
“Arab Health is a remarkable business platform, but it is enormous and can be overwhelming for single organizations. Our pavilion’s objective is to make it easy to find and do business with Swedish life science companies in one place, and to offer those participants a number of exclusive networking events and opportunities to interact with our VIPs and other local contacts,” says Paula Hassoon, CEO of Global Pharma Consulting.
Global Pharma Consulting offers market entry and business development services, helping Swedish life science companies navigate the complex requirements of doing business in Arabic business cultures. With wide distribution networks and know-how throughout the MENA region, the team has a solid track record for streamlining distributor contracts and licensing, says Hassoon.
Seminars with hands-on advice
Throughout the week at Arab Health, The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden ran several seminars for participants, focusing on some of the topics relevant to Swedish companies entering the region. Panel discussions were held on the internationalization of Swedish life science, hosted by Mr. Niclas Jacobson, Deputy Director General of the Swedish Ministry of Health and Ms Vivianne Macdisi, Chairman of the Swecare Foundation; opportunities in Qatar, hosted by Swedish Ambassador to the State of Qatar H.E. Ms Ewa Polano; how to approach Med-tech registration in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and a discussion on UAE / GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) registration policies held by Global Pharma Consulting’s senior consultants.
“Aside from the official inauguration with many VIPs from Sweden, UAE and Qatar, we were honored by visits from the UAE’s Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health and Prevention; the DHA (Dubai Health Authority); and HAAD (Abu Dhabi Health Authority). Furthermore, we had an excellent meeting with the Director General of the Medical Office at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs where we discussed Sweden’s know-how in the area of quality registries with a focus on Swedeheart (Sweden’s biggest and leading quality registry in the CV-area). The time allocated to us by these senior officials demonstrates just how positively they view The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden’s role at Arab Health as well as the UAE’s readiness to align with Swedish life science experts,” says Hassoon.
Support from Swedish organizations
In addition to ambassadors and other representatives from the government, the Swecare Foundation and the Swedish Export Credit Agency contributed with their insights and informed about their services.
“For us, representing EKN, the Swedish Export Credit Agency, it has been such a fantastic experience to interact with innovators and consultants servicing the Swedish Life Science industry – one of Sweden’s biggest exports. The working relationships started at The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden will continue to evolve and EKN is pleased to be able to support the pavilion’s objectives when it comes to introducing Swedish innovation into foreign markets,” says Senior Underwriters Jan Grigo and Ellen Hoffner.
Next year’s Arab Health
With the pavilion shell barely dismantled, plans are already underway for The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden at Arab Health 2019.
“We will certainly need a larger space next year and participants will have access to even more panel discussions with government authorities to support their MENA growth strategies. We’re also planning to play with AI and interactive technology on next year’s pavilion, staying with innovation as a theme. Everyone knows we raise the bar every year!” concludes Hassoon.
Voices from participating Swedish companies
A successful entry into the MENA markets doesn’t happen overnight. You must be prepared to invest long-term and indeed, many of the companies exhibiting in The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden participated for the second time or with even more previous experience. The companies were in general very happy with the outcome of their marketing efforts as evident from the following testimonies:
“I like to think that Galenica’s foresight and innovation is a great example of just how far Swedish healthcare products can extend if one has the right resources and local knowledge. With such great support, we have been able to tell our story to a wider audience and grow our footprint,” says Joakim Hindemith, Business Unit Director, Galenica.
“The level of customer service at The Innovation Pavilion by Sweden during Arab Health has been impressive and shows the prominent level of engagement by the staff. The support we have enjoyed includes a good understanding of the cultures in the MENA region and the organizer’s ability to use the situation to our advantage is an asset to our business,” says Caroline Danielson, CEO, Renapharma.