The African Markets Pharma Can’t Ignore

January 11, 2013
Julian Upton

Julian Upton is the European Editor of Pharmaceutical Executive and Editor of Pharm Exec Global Digest. He can be reached at jupton@advanstar.com.

In its new study on pharma market growth in Africa, IMS Health highlights three ‘rising star’ countries from the continent’s sub-Saharan region.


In its new study on pharma market growth in Africa, IMS Health highlights three ‘rising star’ countries from the continent’s sub-Saharan region.

According to Africa: A Ripe Opportunity, Nigeria, Botswana, and Kenya are set to join the more established markets of South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco as major countries to watch in the next five to 10 years.

Speaking toPharmTech’s sister publication Pharm Exec, Daniel Rosen and Sarah Rickwood, of IMS’ Thought Leadership division, pointed to Nigeria as ‘the one country that pharma companies can’t ignore.’ Within a decade, they explain, Nigeria could be one of the world’s 20 largest economies. Its population of 160 million means it is already larger than Morocco in terms of market size.

However, says Rosen, ‘companies have a tendency to get a bit to fixated on Nigeria. Potentially, if they were to spread their investments, they could also see really good returns across the other fast-growing economies.’ As well as Botswana and Kenya, there is opportunity with the East African Community - Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda - especially if, Rosen adds, these countries harmonize regulations on pharmaceuticals, which is mooted. ‘If this was to happen we could start looking at the East African Community as a single hub, and it would stand a chance of overtaking some of the other markets in terms of size.’

Africa isn’t just an opportunity for pharma. ‘At its very heart,’ says Rosen, ‘it is a macro economic opportunity. Next year, it will have seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world.’ But as far as pharma is concerned, he adds, ‘you have to look at rise of the African middle class consumer, the ability to pay for more drugs, and the willingness to spend money on healthcare.’ Indeed, 10 major African cities are expected to represent between 20 and 30 percent of the total pharmaceutical market opportunity by 2016. Since 2000, healthcare spending has grown at a 9.6 percent pace (CAGR) across 49 African countries.

And if it seems something of an oversimplification to condense a vast continent of 53 countries into one ‘ripe opportunity’, Rickwood argues that, so far, the argument has been that Africa is a continent ‘where only the north and the extreme south has really mattered to pharmaceutical companies.’ Indeed, these regions have seen a recent, rapid increase in public healthcare spending: South Africa is moving towards a national health insurance scheme, Algeria and Egypt are investing heavily in public healthcare, and Morocco is now looking at introducing a new healthcare scheme.

But the new report points to the fact that ‘growth is definitely coming from the middle,’ says Rickwood. ‘Africa is a long-term growth opportunity that will probably be going strong when some of the current big ‘pharmerging’ markets will be starting to moderate their growth levels. The challenge that companies have is deciding which of Africa’s countries to invest in.’

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