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Africa: A continent of opportunity for pharma and patients


The value of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry jumped to $20.8 billion in 2013 from just $4.7 billion a decade earlier. That growth is continuing at a rapid pace: we predict the market will be worth $40 billion to $65 billion by 2020 (exhibit). That’s good news for multinationals and pharmaceutical companies seeking new sources of growth as developed markets stagnate. It’s also good news for patients, who have gained access to medicines previously unavailable on the continent. Yet it isn’t enough to know where the industry’s next growth engine can be found. Leaders must also understand what is driving growth, what challenges they are likely to face, and how to collaboratively work with health systems to win in this complex environment.


Africa’s pharmaceutical market can expect strong growth.



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What’s driving growth

Africa’s pharmaceutical markets are growing in every sector. Between 2013 and 2020, prescription drugs are forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6 percent, generics at 9 percent, over-the-counter medicines at 6 percent, and medical devices at 11 percent. Three factors are driving this growth:

  • Urbanization. Africa’s population is undergoing a massive shift. By 2025, two-fifths of economic growth will come from 30 cities of two million people or more; 22 of these cities will have GDP in excess of $20 billion. Cities enjoy better logistics infrastructures and healthcare capabilities, and urban households have more purchasing power and are quicker to adopt modern medicines.
  • Healthcare capacity. Between 2005 and 2012, Africa added 70,000 new hospital beds, 16,000 doctors, and 60,000 nurses. Healthcare provision is becoming more efficient through initiatives such as Mozambique’s switch to specialist nurse anesthetists and South Africa’s use of nurses to initiate antiretroviral drug therapy. The introduction of innovative delivery models is increasing capacity still further.
  • The business environment. To create a more supportive environment for business, governments have introduced price controls and import restrictions to encourage domestic drug manufacture; required country-specific labeling to reduce counterfeiting and parallel imports; and tightened laws on import, wholesale, and retail margins. In the pharma industry, meanwhile, pharmacy chains are consolidating, horizontal and vertical integration is on the rise, and manufacturing is expanding. A flurry of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic alliances, partnerships, and private-equity deals are further extending Africa’s markets.

What it takes to win

In a world of slowing and stagnating markets, Africa represents perhaps the last geographic frontier where genuinely high growth is still achievable. Early movers can take these four steps to pursue competitive advantage:

  • Focus on pockets of growth. Africa is not one unified market, but 54 distinct ones, with wide gaps between countries in terms of their market size, growth trajectory, macroeconomic landscape, legal structure, and political complexities. Over the past decade, ten countries have delivered more than…



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