In his commentary in United Kingdom’s Telegraph newspaper, the company’s chief executive officer Sir Andrew Witty said GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will unveil plans to build up to five new factories, creating hundreds of jobs to step up its presence in the region.
Sir Witty underlined the importance of the African region for GSK’s long-term business.
“The transformation of Africa into a successful growth region is one area that we need to focus on. There is a great opportunity for business to play a role, a alongside governments and other agencies, to help deliver improved infrastructure and create prosperity to lift people out of poverty for good,” he said.
GSK manufactures drugs in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa but it is looking at sites in Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda for its new facilities in expanding its operations in Africa.
Sir Witty will make the announcement at the EU-Africa Business Summit in Brussels.
He said the company is thoughtful about the kind of modern, relevant business they want to build specifically for Africa.
“I will set out plans to move further on our agenda to help more people in Africa access health care and contribute to development. This will see us make new R&D and manufacturing investments that will create jobs. Build capacity and support sustainable growth,” he noted.
He said if done correctly, it will be a powerful illustration of how business can spur commercial success and support social change. “In this way, we can deliver a strong business performance and do good, improving the lives of people all over the world.”
GSK’s sales model for much of Africa is based on volume rather than profit growth. For the countries that fall into its “least developed” category, the company sells its patented medicines for a quarter of the price they fetch in the UK. In 2013 it established a new unit dedicated to selling drugs in Sub-Saharan Africa, which it described in its annual report as “the first step in a broader growth strategy for Africa”.
The company also reinforced its presence in the continent last year by partnering with Save the Children to “save the lives of one million children” by broadening access to vaccines, investing in health workers, improving child nutrition and researching new medicines. Programmes have been launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.
GSK is also in the advanced stages of developing the world’s first malaria vaccine, which could make a “significant impact” on the health of millions of young children.