As Luciano Marques, CEO and country president of Novartis South Africa, puts it, "It is clear that South Africa is well positioned
not only as an economic gateway but also as a healthcare hub for the rest of Africa." He adds, "The decision to explore potential
business opportunities in Africa is a strategic one. It is not about expanding the size of the market, but about the long-term
benefits of the role Novartis could play in Africa in the future. It is therefore critical that Novartis gains a deep understanding
of developments in African markets," Marques says.
Novartis has established plants in Africa to discover drugs for subtropical diseases, showing the company's commitment to
fighting diseases affecting the continent. In 2011, Novartis spent around $1.7 billion to support corporate social responsibility
programs globally. South Africa also benefits from these initiatives, which include patient access programs that provide medicines
for leprosy, malaria, tuberculosis and some forms of cancer.
Dr. Timmy Kedijang, general manager of Novo Nordisk South Africa
AstraZeneca decided almost four years ago to use South Africa as its springboard to sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the company
has dramatically expanded its presence in sub-Saharan Africa, having registered and launched AstraZeneca products across nineteen
countries in West, East, and Southern Africa. It has led the company to triple its turnover across these markets between 2008
"South Africa's BRICS membership is clearly connected to its strong positioning in sub-Saharan Africa, not only in healthcare
and pharmaceuticals, but across most other sectors, as well," explains Guni Goolab, marketing company president of AstraZeneca.
"The entrance of Wal-Mart to the South African market is a good example; it was not just about South Africa but about the
positioning of the company in sub-Saharan Africa."
Africa offers growing business opportunities and South Africa has the skills that international companies from Wal-Mart to
the world's top pharmaceutical manufacturers are looking for to expand into sub-Saharan Africa. Companies take every opportunity
to have their teams exchange views and harmonize technology platforms.
Brian Daniel, CEO and country manager of Pfizer South Africa
However, investors have to be mindful of the various cultures and the way of doing business across Africa. Omar Ehsan, IMS
general manager of Africa, says, "The most widely spoken language in Africa is Arabic. As a result, being Africa-centric implies
focusing on four different business cultures with various levels of healthcare provision for the population. Sub-Sahara and
Central Africa currently still depend upon foreign direct investment and donor organizations that serve the healthcare needs
of the population, while in North Africa, expansion of social insurance to improve access to healthcare is becoming the norm."
Ian Ross-Marsh, managing director of Teva Pharmaceutical, Ltd., says that it is important to recognize regional differences
in Africa. Marsh says, "South Africa is considered by African countries as very much being the trend setter of what is available,
especially if you are looking at the English-speaking parts of Africa. This is not the case in French-speaking countries,
such as Senegal, which are still very much dominated by French distribution channels. However, strategically with regards
to English-speaking Africa, especially in the south from the equator downwards and also West Africa, South Africa is going
to have a very strong role to play in that market."
Merck: Transforming with South Africa
South Africa is expected to continue to become a leading player in Africa for the next three to five years. Consequently,
the implementation of new national legislation, such as the National Health Insurance (NHI) system, will be observed very
carefully by other African economies.
Some industry leaders are already looking ahead to the future potential in other African countries. "There are some very dynamic
healthcare economies that are getting a lot of emphasis in Africa, namely Algeria, Kenya, and Nigeria," Ehsan says. "By 2015,
Algeria is forecasted to reach $4.1 billion in pharmaceutical sales. It has a population similar to the size of South Africa
and growth is fuelled mainly from income derived from oil and gas exports. As South Africa growth rates slow down over the
next five years, healthcare economies like Algeria, Nigeria, and Kenya will experience strong high single-digit growth rates."
Dr. Iain Barton, CEO of RTT