The decision reflects the pharmaceutical industry's
growing interest in Africa, given improved economic growth and
rising demand for treatments against chronic diseases that are
becoming more common among urban middle classes.
France's Sanofi has also highlighted Africa as a promising growth
Sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for only around 500 million
pounds of GSK's annual sales, which totaled 26.5 billion pounds in
2013, but the group sees potential for significantly greater sales
in future as African economies grow.
The rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart and lung
disorders, diabetes and cancer is changing the market for drugs in
Africa and increasing demand for new products beyond treatments for
NCDs are expected to account for 46 percent of all deaths in
sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, up from 28 percent in 2008, according to
the World Bank.
GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty, who set out his firm's plans at a
conference in Brussels on Monday, said up to 100 million pounds of
the new money would be used to expand manufacturing in Nigeria and
Kenya, and to build as many as five new factories.
GSK, which currently makes drugs in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,
is reviewing possible factory locations in countries including
Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia.
In addition, Britain's biggest drugmaker will invest 25 million
pounds to create the world's first open-access research and
development (R&D) laboratory for NCDs in Africa.
The overall investments will create at least 500 jobs — a
substantial increase on the 1,500 currently employed by GSK in
The R&D center will allow GSK scientists to work with outside
researchers to investigate the specific needs of African patients
with chronic diseases by focusing on variations in the nature of
certain illnesses on the continent.
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An above-average number of Africans with high blood pressure, for
example, appear to be resistant to medical treatment and there is
also a high prevalence of aggressive breast cancer in younger women.
The aim is to find new drugs to address the specific needs of such
Additional funding will also be funneled into establishing 25
academic chairs at African universities and increasing support for
community health worker training.
GSK has been stepping up its exposure to many of the world's
emerging markets in recent years by increasing investment in local
supply lines and sales forces, striking deals, and buying out
minority shareholders in certain subsidiary businesses.
Last week it took full control of its consumer healthcare unit in
Indonesia, after recently increasing its stake in local units in
Witty has made emerging markets a key growth platform for GSK. He
has stuck with the strategy despite recent problems in China, where
the company's sales have been hit by bribery allegations.
($1 = 0.6011 British pounds)
(Editing by Mark Potter)
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