Dr Skhumbuzo Ngozwana, President and CEO of the newly merged entity between Kiara Health and Specpharm, discusses the role of leadership, medicine and altruism within the company


Ngozwana is someone who takes the proverbial bull by the horns and isn’t afraid to be in the trenches. Ngozwana started his career as a medical doctor but when it became obvious that nothing would change unless people like him initiated that change, he left his practice to take on the role of Medical Advisor at Cipla Medpro.

The reason for this move was because Ngozwana was frustrated by the lack of medicine deliveries to his practice and the surrounds. Following his move to Cipla, he obtained a Master’s degree in Pharmacology and followed that up with an MBA.

The merger

So often, mergers and acquisitions are about chasing profits, yet the merger between Kiara Health and Specpharm was based on a mutual vision of providing access to first-rate healthcare across Africa. The vision goes above and beyond providing the correct medication, it is about eradicating sub-standard drugs, access to correct and timeous diagnoses, as well as patient education.

“We hold the firm belief that a sale isn’t completed when the tablet is packed onto the shelf.It is when we have done all we can to ensure that the tablet is taken correctly and for the right reasons,” says Ngozwana.

Ngozwana describes the merger as a meeting of minds: “If we had tried to tackle the problems of healthcare across the continent through organic means, it would have taken us years. Through the merger, we have been able to fast- track this process through partnerships with existing healthcare operators in Africa, as well as the manufacturing capability we now have,” he says.

Technology and Africa

The challenges in healthcare remain the same across the globe—ageing populations and an increase in non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to these challenges, the problem of sub-standard drugs, incorrect diagnoses and improper patient education creates the necessity for partnerships and collaborations. Through technology, Kiara Health is already making strides in preventing unnecessary deaths. One example is the licence held for the Xenex Full Spectrum™ Pulsed Xenon Disinfection Robot. In the era of the ‘superbugs’ affecting patients in hospitals, this technology allows for disinfecting hospitals without human intervention, it is able to kill the anthrax spore, for example, in record time.

In the 21st century, it is impractical to follow the antiquated manner in which blood and other diagnostic tests are handled. Ngozwana says, “Sending blood samples from a rural area to an urban one is ludicrous. We are living in an age where point-of-care kits are available. Instead of taking a sample, loading it into a vehicle and transporting it to a laboratory, it would make more sense to use the point-of-care kits and upload the results to a digital platform where they can be seen by a pathologist anywhere in the world. The diagnosis would be accurate, it would happen faster and it would mitigate the risk of coagulation or a lost sample.”

Innovation is paramount. According to Ngozwana, this goes beyond the actual manufacturing of the medication, it is about seeing where partnerships will better serve the communities. The visionary leader is able to see what needs to be changed in order to ensure the goals are met. Ngozwana is one of these visionaries. One way of reducing the cost of medication is through the utilisation of local talent.

“There have been many pharmaceutical companies who have failed on the African continent, purely because they refused to use the local talent. Flying international experts into Ghana, for example, is no guarantee of success. In fact, using local experts will most likely be the key,” he explains.


The merger with Specpharm is one of the greatest achievements to date because, through this merger, Kiara Health has acquired a manufacturing platform, which allows for the local production of medication and assured quality.

Another is the team with whom Ngozwana works closely.

“We are like a family, we argue, we fight but we know that what we are doing is for the greater good. We have the shared knowledge that when we are working late or over the weekend, our time is ultimately helping someone. We are not a pharmaceutical company, we are a healthcare company and this ethos is shared by the team, as well as our families,” he enthuses.

As a leader

Ngozwana is a leader who exudes the duality of calm and passion. He believes that a leader needs to be inclusive and consultative, whilst keeping the goal of the organisation in mind at all times. Shouting and micro-management are two traits Ngozwana believes will only damage a business, by demotivating employees. “Mistakes happen, if we didn’t make mistakes we wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn,” says Ngozwana.

A true leader needs to be a visionary who knows that business is a numbers game and deadlines are important but nothing will be achieved if the team doesn’t feel inspired and, even worse, if they don’t trust you.

Being able to find the simplest solution to a complex problem is a trait every leader should hold and humility is another. Simply being able to listen to your team, customers and peers will create a path to learning that would otherwise be unavailable.

Remaining centred and focused on the goals of the organization will ensure that the team looking to the leader for guidance will live the same goals.

“What you don’t respect, others won’t either,” says Ngozwana.

In order to achieve this, it is important to take time out to relax. Finding the balance between family and work is fundamental to Ngozwana’s leadership style.

Finally, possibly one of the greatest lessons Ngozwana has learnt in his career is, if you want something done, do it today. There is no tomorrow.

Ngozwana is the epitome of a great leader, he creates a sense of calm, whilst never losing sight of the goals. Understanding that no business can succeed with a demotivated team and by putting his learning and skills to practice, he inspires his team and is ensuring a better and healthier Africa. 

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