Drugmakers eye Africa's middle classes as next growth market

Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:08am EST
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By Elena Berton

PARIS (Reuters) - For pharmaceutical companies, Africa is changing.

Not only is the continent's economic growth grabbing attention in boardrooms but the shifting nature of its disease burden is luring Big Pharma, as new opportunities open up for treating chronic diseases afflicting the middle classes, rather than just fire-fighting infection.

European companies, in particular, hope to reap rewards by investing early in a region where many of them already have historic commercial ties.

Violence in Mali and Algeria have put Africa in the headlines in recent weeks but Sanofi (SASY.PA: Quote) of France - the international drug company with the biggest sales in Africa - is still pushing ahead with a third factory in Algeria.

"Africa is becoming an extremely interesting market and we'll continue to expand our commercial presence there," Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher told Reuters.

According to IMS data, by 2016 pharmaceutical spending in Africa is expected to reach $30 billion, driven by a 10.6 percent annual growth rate that is second only to Asia and in line with Latin America.

By 2020 the market will have more than doubled from current levels to $45 billion.

Although it is likely to remain a niche market, the promise of Africa is that it will continue to grow in the next decade as Asia and Latin America start to reach maturity.   Continued...

A customer buys medication at a pharmacy in Khartoum January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah