* Up to 100 mln pounds for new drug manufacturing in Africa
* GSK looks at Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia for new factories
* Further investment in drug R&D focused on continent
By Ben Hirschler
March 31 Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline plans
to invest up to 130 million pounds ($216 million) in Africa over
the next five years as it bets on the importance of the
continent in driving long-term demand for medicine.
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 market.
Sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for only around 500
million pounds of GSK's annual sales, which totalled 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 acute infections.
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
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 centre 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.
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 African patients.
Additional funding will also be funnelled 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 India.
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
($1 = 0.6011 British Pounds)
(Editing by Mark Potter)