After an intense day, one of the many of my business activities that complete more than 50 years, yet at the same time, different due to the fight on the front line with an invisible enemy, the corona-virus, I tried to put some thoughts in order and see the “bigger picture” for today and the future.

As I usually say, every crisis creates opportunities, as long as one can see them and  is willing to make use of them. As cliché and widely used as this phrase may sound, it is a reality. Keep the details of this short introduction for the next lines.

Being involved in the market from a very young age, as a result of the loss of my father at the age of 7, I tried to turn this unfortunate moment into an opportunity. So, in 1969, along with my brother George, who had worked in a pharmacy and knew the industry, we entered the field of pharmaceuticals. Our guide in this process has always been solvency, that is, whatever you say to do. Hence, you always come out victorious over time. And you should always look for alternatives, never rest, because inaction does not lead to progress. I do not wish to give you tips for success, nor is there any infallible recipe that, if you follow it, will take you high. But surely, if you apply the above mentioned words, they will put you in the right context.

In 1974, we entered the medical arena, representing and supplying the Greek market with German-made dermatological products. With steady steps we also entered the field of production of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products in Greece, watching our whole project grow steadily, guided by the principles we set in advance. A milestone year was the establishment in 1981 of the “umbrella” company, named “Pharmex” which today has under its roof 5 independent “Societe Anonyme” companies, that entirely belong to the Papazoglou brothers.

“Business” is by no means a simple matter. But you need to have a clear mind to overcome challenges. Such a great challenge was presented when the economic crisis broke out in Greece, accompanied with serious shocks for the credibility of the country and Greek companies in the European market. Hence, we saw all of it as an opportunity to open up to new ways and markets, by turning to the African continent.

Africa is a long-suffering continent, with many potentials. We set up business in 2012 in Lusaka, Zambia, where we now maintain supply facilities for pharmaceuticals and hospital products. In addition, we also expanded our business in the food trade sector. So, the conclusion that is made from this whole course of more than 50 years, is to look for new ways, don’t afraid to dare, and to contextually adapt to the conditions and needs of the market.

The impact of our corona-virus crisis is already taking us into uncharted waters. Unfortunately, the European Union has failed to recognise the magnitude of the danger and to take concerted action, when the problem was at an early stage. It seems that long-term planning is missing, which is not something new. We have seen this, from time to time, in our discussions with top officials on the future of Africa. And apparently history repeats itself.

On the issue of dealing with the corona-virus in Africa, the European family, which borders with the African continent, has limited itself to simple wishes. Nothing specific, nothing coordinated in action. Again, long-term design is missing and support is lacking. Of course, one could say that the Union remains committed to “its home affairs”. I strongly disagree with that. Everyone must understand the magnitude of the Union’s potential and the responsibility it has taken on millions of our fellow citizens.

All this reminds me of the crude attempts by the “Residents of the Commission” to resolve the issue of improving people’s living conditions, so that they are not forced to emigrate. The proposed solution was the temporary funding to countries, without a clear plan. Any funding granted to individuals simply supported the small-scale, local production of agricultural products.

Already as a company, we have worked on and published a business plan to support local communities by creating a market supply and repackaging center of European products, having first listened carefully to the preferences of the communities. The goal of the project is twofold. Initially, the European market will be supported, since raw material and products that will be processed there, will come from Europe. Secondly, the standard of living of the inhabitants will rise. Not only will they enjoy the benefits of work, but they will also have access to high quality nutrition products. As a logical consequence of improving their lives, their need for immigration will be significantly reduced. By the way, for your information, there are 3 independent trade unions in Africa. The first consists of 32 countries in Central Africa, the second of 5 countries in East Africa, and the third of 13 West African countries. Imagine the magnitude of the influence of three large storage centers, with the purpose to promote European products, and also on-site packaging of local raw materials. If the plan is implemented, it will offer at least 20,000 jobs there and many other benefits for the European products.

Unfortunately, we have not reached to a favorable outcome in the discussions regarding the implementation plan of the above project. And that’s why we return to what was mentioned at the beginning of the article. You need to create long-term plans in order to render yourself invulnerable, when you cannot control events and their repercussions. You need planning, to deal with the problem in a comprehensive fashion and, of course, the desire to come up with solutions.

The European Union must realize its responsibility to the countries of Africa and change its course. The corona-virus crisis is a first-class opportunity for reorganization. We must care for Africa since it has potential, yet not through empty funding that has been mismanaged over all these years. It is vital to support specific business plans that will show the way, improve the living standards of societies and reduce unemployment. Let’s predict and act together before it’s too late.

CEO, Pharmex SA