IMANI Calls On GHS For The Drone Program To Be Piloted

drones for medical delivery
drones for medical delivery

Policy think tank IMANI Africa, has discribed the Director General of Ghana Health Service, Dr. Nsiah-Asare as confused by failing to carefully analyze IMANI’s position of the drones project debate, hence discrediting them.

In a statement from IMANI and copied to, the Founding President of IMANI Africa, Mr. Franlin Cudjoe said “The gentleman (Dr. Nsiah-Asare) seems completely at sea with the thrust of our arguments. To cure his confusion, we have summarised our detailed analysis in this brief note. He should do well to read carefully this time around. We serialise our response in 6 batches of 5 points per batch”

According to Mr. Cujoe, the IMANI’s unchanged position is that the project should be piloted in remotest part in the Northern Region where such services can be justified with an amount to UDS$100,000.00 for the period of 6months.

This according to him will afford the government the opportunity to evaluate the impact of the project.

Find The Full Statement.

Press Statement- IMANI: On Drones, Ghana Health Service Boss, Dr. Nsiah-Asare is Very Confused

We have just been sent a clip of the popular Joy FM primetime morning show, Newsfile, in which Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare is heard discrediting IMANI’s positions on the Zipline drone program.

The gentleman seems completely at sea with the thrust of our arguments. To cure his confusion, we have summarised our detailed analysis in this brief note, which can be accessed @

Nonetheless, the following 11 points are instructive.

1. IMANI’s position is that the drone program should be piloted at a budget not exceeding $100,000 over a period of 6 months in one of the very few areas of Ghana where an emergency drone service can be justified on social welfare and public finance grounds. Such a location is the area around Saboba, Kpalba and Wapuli in the Northern region, where the topography, health demographics, and infrastructure situation warrants such an investment. During the rainy season, these communities are cut off from Yendi, their only vital link to the national health supply chain.

2. After 6 months of piloting, a detailed evaluation report by independent researchers should guide any further investments and scale up.

3. At any rate, let us not allow the gentleman to confuse the debate. At between $11.5/kg to$21/kg, drone health commodities transportation is extremely expensive! A simple intuitive way to understand this is to look at courier prices. For example, the upper bound estimate for the proposed drone service is higher than the price per kg for DHL deliveries between Ghana and London and Ghana and Frankfurt.

4. Of course, scale dynamics plays a major part in the analysis. Which is of course the whole point. The very nature of drone transport makes economies of scale impossible in the Ghana of today, and should therefore see drone transport restricted to emergency deliveries in a very small corner of Ghana, for which reason an initiative of this type in a nation like ours should start at $100,000 and NOT $20 million plus!

5. Nsiah-Asare disputed our claim that over the last 2 years, Rwanda’s delivery rate hasaveraged about 6 per day. Zipline’s own PR is amply clear about these figures (example: this article by CNBC on which the company clearly collaborated with the writers: The company’s 5000 delivery-flights over the timeline of service in Rwanda at the time of the story works out to 6.7 deliveries per day on average. Clearly the gentleman did no serious research when he went to Rwanda.

6. The total cost of the Zipline program in Rwanda – which was on a “per delivery” basis rather than the “capacity charge” model being used in Ghana case – to the Government of Rwanda has been less than $150,000 in the two years that the program launched. Compare that to Ghana where, for reasons known only to Nsiah Asare and his per diem collecting bureaucrats, the program shall cost more than $10 million over a similar span of 2 years! Rwanda has “targeted” the project surgically. We unfortunately have not.
7. Having listened to his description of the upcoming rollout of the first distribution center at Suhum, to cover a 160 kilometer diameter, we are quite alarmed. He does not appear to see the absurdity of a scheme that involves first pooling scarce health commodities at the Regional Medical Stores in Koforidua, then transporting them to a private facility in Suhum so that they can be catapulted in streams to facilities in the Afram Plains.

8. Here are obvious examples: a) the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) program in Tanzania mentioned earlier; b) right here in Ghana, the Dutch Government and the UNFPA rolled out a reproductive commodities delivery program by drones that has failed to scale because Government refuses to fund it (clearly, no per diem opportunities for GHS bureaucrats to travel out; read more about this here:; c) Puerto Rico’s Skypod program; various initiatives by Flytrex and Matternet (eg. Jointly with Matternet in Papua New Guinea); and d) the Vayu initiative in Madagascar. If this was merely about the urgency of drone transport, why didn’t Dr. Nsiah Asare hop from radio station to radio station asking for funds for the earlier 2016 UNFPA drone program in Ghana that became stagnant due to lack of funds?

9. If a landscape analysis led by Dr. Nsiah-Asare could not surface all these many initiatives to learn lessons and understand the importance of careful piloting, then he is clearly much too limited in focus to be allowed to run amok purporting to be directing this exercise.

10. Given how porous his awareness about critical issues is, Dr. Nsiah-Asare does not inspire our confidence in this project. Hopefully, a technical panel composed of actors from other critical agencies beyond the GHS shall be put together to implement a small pilot in the Saboba area or one of the other few places that the GHS’s own analysis of the health transport system show cannot be adequately served by vans, bicycles and motorcycles especially during the rainy season. It would appear that Nsiah-Asare may not even be aware of the “model transport portfolio” guiding the very agency he heads.

11. Let’s also not forget that the agreement before Parliament has expired on its own terms and is now a document that can be kept alive only by the unilateral discretion of Zipline. It expired on 31st October 2018 due to the delay in securing Parliamentary approval. Can we just withdraw the agreement, do proper consultations, and then fix it before asking Parliament to approve? Why are we always in such a rush?

Read the complete response @

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