ACCRA, Ghanaian Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo has advised pharmaceutical companies in the country to take advantage of the huge market available in the West African sub-region to expand their business, urging them to exploit the enormous opportunities available to substantially expand their product lines.

Addressing the annual conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) in Kumasi, about 250 kilometres northwest of here, Thursday, he called on the society to collaborate with the government to devise ways to capture the market in the Economic Community of West Africa (Ecowas) sub-region as an urgent priority and a must-do crusade.

Harnessing opportunities in pharmacy for national economic development is the theme chosen for the six-day meeting.

Osafo Maafo pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry held tremendous potential for the nation’s economy and underlined the government’s unswerving determination to provide the needed support for its optimal performance.

It was for this reason that the government had introduced a number of stimulus packages for the sector, including the exemption of Customs duties on all raw materials imported for local manufacturing of drugs, he added.

The government was also in talks with key stakeholders to exempt value added tax (VAT) on manufactured pharmaceutical products. Additionally, it had been discussing with fellow Ecowas member states to harmonize the free movement of pharmaceutical products in the sub-regional grouping.

The Senior Minister encouraged the companies to focus on building the capacity to penetrate the international market.

Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman Manu told the meeting that the government was prepared to go the extra mile to assist the companies supply a greater percentage of the nation’s medicine needs to reduce the import bill. He hinted at more incentives to aid their growth, expansion and competitiveness on the international market.

The government was eager to establish Ghana as a pharmaceutical manufacturing hub in West Africa, he added.