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Join me leave a solid legacy to posterity - New PSGH President
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Pharm. Benjamin Kwame Botwe, the current President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) is a world renowned expert on medicines regulation, quality assurance and pharmaceutical Sector Management in addition to an extensive experience in strategic management and public administration.

Mr. Botwe has spent the past 27 years of his career at very high levels as a public servant and recognized  as the first Deputy Chief Executive (Drugs Division) of the Ghana Food and Drugs Board (now Food and Drugs Authority). Additionally, he served the country’s leading watchdog for protecting the safety of foods, drugs, cosmetic and household chemicals as Chief Executive Officer in an acting capacity from October 2001 to May 2002 during which period several regulatory innovations were initiated resulting in the regulatory authority obtaining its first one (1) million dollars as a public service institution.

As the first pharmacist and civilian to lead the Narcotics Control Board of Ghana in the capacity of an Executive Secretary, Mr. Botwe is on record to have brought stability, increased competence and sanity into the control of narcotics between 2007 and 2008. Since October 2015, Mr. Botwe has been the Acting Rector of the Ghana College of Pharmacists (GCPharm). Over the last seven years, he has been involved in the development of Medicines Control Services through policy and legislation enactment, drafting of regulatory guidelines and procedures, training and capacity building in many African countries including Botswana, Mozambique, Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Malawi. Mr Botwe is a Consultant to the Medicines and Vaccines Program of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) where he has played a leading role in the development of the ECOWAS Regional Pharmaceutical Plan (ERPP), and the African Union (AU) NEPAD African Medicines Registration Harmonizaion (AMRH) Project.

He is also a member of the Task Team set up by the AU Commission for the eventual establishment of an African Medicines Agency (AMA) and wrote the Institutional and Legal Framework for its establishment. Beyond this, he has undertaken several international consultancies with other renowned agencies like the USAID, PEPFAR, EU, USP, MANAGEMENT SCIENCES FOR HEALTH, TRANSEC, GIZ, PTB of Germany and WHO. He was part of the team of international consultants that were put together by the German Government to develop a roadmap for the establishment of a Bioequivalence Centre in Ghana.

Currently, he has been appointed a Short Term Consultant (STC) by the World Bank to help facilitate the harmonization of medicines regulation in the ECOWAS Region. Mr Botwe is a Faculty member and lecturer at the Centre for Pharmaceutical Advancement and Training (CePAT) and also teaches on part time basis at the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists and   represents the PSGH as an observer on the USP Convention.

Mr. Botwe holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy honours degree from KNUST and is a co-recipient of the Dr. John Ocran Award, a recognition given to pharmacy trainees who excel at professional qualifying examination for pharmacy interns. He has a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Analysis from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK; Master of Public Administration from GIMPA, Accra; Post Graduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership from MSH, Boston, USA; and Post Graduate Certificate in Managing Analytical Laboratories from the University of North West (Potchestroom) in South Africa.

He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Management and Leadership at the Management University of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. Mr. Botwe is a Member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, Fellow of the Ghana College of Pharmacists, Fellow of the West African Post-Graduate College of Pharmacists and a Member of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). He has authored and co-authored over twelve publications in the field of medicines regulation and quality assurance.

Mr. Botwe is the current Chairman of the National Committee on Health and Environment of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana that oversees all the hospitals and health facilities of the Church and also the Lay Representative of the Kaneshie District of the Church to the Ga West Presbytery Session Council.

He is married to Baaba Botwe and they are blessed with three girls and a boy.

In this exclusive interview, the new President of the PSGH shares with our readers, the drivers behind his decision to lead the country’s body of pharmacists.

 

Congratulations on your new role as the captain of the fraternity of pharmacists.

Thank you very much and thanks also to the Fellows and Members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana for the opportunity they have given to me to serve them for the next two years.

 

It’s been 2 months into your new leadership role. How do you feel about it?

Exciting, challenging and fulfilling. I have had the opportunity to be briefed by my predecessor and his team, had a meeting with the SEC [Standing Executive Committee] to develop strategies on the way forward, launched and organized activities to commemorate the World Pharmacists Day, made donations to the Government of Ghana to support the disaster victims of Sierra Leone, made a donation to Ridge Hospital to support the treatment of victims of the Atomic Junction Gas Explosion disaster, and many other meetings on the new Health Bill, with the consultant working on the new Conditions of Service for GHOSPA and with the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee in a two-day retreat to plan activities for 2018. I have really enjoyed the support and cooperation of all the pharmacists, young and old, who have volunteered their time and effort so far in the service of Pharmacy.

 

Could you share with us some of the reasons why you decided to stand for the Presidency of the PSGH?

The grace of God and Pharmacy has made me what I am today. Remember in the most difficult part of my career in the public service of Ghana, Pharmacy and its leadership stood by me and my colleagues. I have all the time been yearning for an opportunity to serve Pharmacy but have been wondering in which capacity. When I saw the invitation for nominations on the PSGH website I asked myself whether this was an opportunity to serve. I therefore called my predecessor, whom you all know was my immediate boss earlier on in my career, to inquire why he was not going for a second term which he explained. I had also been following the Strategic Planning processes of the Society which had been on going and felt that it was also an opportunity to contribute in that direction since strategic thinking and planning as well as organizational development were part of the areas for which I had developed some modest capacity. After much reflection, I put up my candidature.

 

You were the only contestant for the presidency position unlike your immediate predecessor who had to wrestle with three other pharmacists. Do you feel disappointed about the dismal level of competition that characterized this year’s election of PSGH executives?

Quite disappointed and mind you such was the situation with all the other positions on the Standing Executive Committee. I asked myself when I got to know at the vetting that I was the only candidate whether colleagues were not interested in serving the Society. I also thought may be most people were expecting that the immediate past President would for a second term so they did not want to engage in that keen contest with him, which result would have been obvious due to his tremendous achievements in just two years. Be as it may, we are here now and we need to forge ahead and serve our profession whilst focusing on the mandate given us. At the end of my term, God willing, I expect to see more people putting up their candidature all in the service of Pharmacy.

 

Why the decision to pursue PhD in Management and Leadership?

Maybe Manslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will explain this. Note also that in every technical field one needs management and leadership acumen to ensure progress and success. I have two Masters, two Fellowships and as a lifelong learner and consultant I felt the need to move on even at the time that I am approaching my retirement age. I hope it will be a motivation for others to start earlier than I did.

 

In your acceptance speech delivered last August at the closing ceremony of the AGM, you hinted of steering the PSGH to tackle unguarded advertisement of medicines and medical treatments in the media. How will you go about this?

My idea is to set a national agenda to tackle this menace. This is what I have been calling “Health Galamsey”. You will agree with me that the advertisements are unduly influencing people, very educated ones inclusive, to use medications that they do not otherwise need. They tend to use health conditions to put fear and panic into people and use it to sell their medications and this has worsened with the multiplicity of media outlets throughout the country.

I obviously expect some resistance from various groups involved and therefore plan to lead the PSGH to organize a national symposium and which all stakeholders will be invited to make a presentation. These will include but not limited to Members of Parliament, pharmacists, medical and dental practitioners, traditional medicine practitioners and manufacturers as well as the media from both radio and television, the police, GPRTU [Ghana Private and Road Transport Union] and other transport organizations, the FDA, Pharmacy Council, Traditional Medicines Practice Council, the Ministries of Health, Gender and Social Protection, civil society groups, bilateral and multilateral partners and consumer associations.  The outcome of this symposium will be officially presented to government as a position paper. My expectation is that this should be able to enhance compliance to provisions on advertisements in existing legislations and eventually result in regulatory reforms as well.

 

You have been serving as the Acting Rector of the GCPharm for over a year now. Will you serve in that capacity alongside your new role as the PSGH President?

You know that the Presidency of the PSGH is not a fulltime paid job and therefore I will continue in whatever job I am and will be doing until I retire as per public service regulations whether in the College or elsewhere in the public sector.

 

Also in your speech, you remarked that the PSGH needs to own the Ghana College of Pharmacists (GCPharm) as an institution for training specialist pharmacists in the country. Can you kindly elaborate on this?

I believe that lifelong learning and capacity building makes one competent and confident. My expectation is that all pharmacists will continually develop themselves professionally and since the College is set up by government to facilitate this process, it will not be out of place that the PSGH takes it as its own. This is not to say that legal ownership should change from government to the Society. No. What I mean is that individual members, corporate organizations belonging to members and the PSGH itself must show keen interest in the College, promote and patronize its programs and courses and advocate for its growth at all levels.

 

The Pharmacy Centre Project (PCP) received tremendous reinvigoration under the tenure of your immediate predecessor. The project is set to cost around $20 million. How will your team go about the financing of this capital intensive project?

It is obvious from all available data that the PSGH cannot fund this project from its resources in the medium to long term. I believe that there are options that he Society has to explore in the financial sector including Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) regimes. I have requested the Pharmacy Center Project Committee and the Finance Committee to explore all options available to ensure that reality is brought to this project within the shortest possible time. We have also put together a team of lawyers who will help us enter into any such arrangement with the interest of the PSGH remaining paramount.

 

What will be your approach towards the implementation of the Strategic Plan of the PSGH under your tenure

In the first instance the membership of the Committee will not change but will change focus from the planning phase to implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Annual activities will be teased and out and budgeted for and as a SEC we will ensure that close to 90% of all planned activities are implemented, and required resources adequately committed.

 

What specific goal do you have in mind under the Strategic Plan?

Maybe two. These are visibility and availability of pharmaceutical services in underserved areas of the country through the introduction of the concept of pharmacy franchising and the financial sustainability and viability of the PSGH. I believe I will have time in the near future to expatiate more on these concepts.

 

What do you do for fun?

I am a very "quiet" soccer addict. Those who knew me in Katanga will testify to this. I love driving and my computer is my second wife – sometimes trying to overtake.

 

We are grateful for your time. Any closing remarks?

I am also very grateful for the opportunity and hope there will be more times that we can have such engagements. I ask for all hands on deck by all pharmacists as we seek to continue where our predecessors have left off so that we can continue to build on, and bequeath a solid PSGH to generations yet unborn. Thank You