The challenges and opportunities of supplying pharmaceuticals in Africa

The supply of pharmaceuticals in Africa is a growth market that’s forecast to be worth between $35.4bn and $53.3bn by the year 2020. The challenges of supplying pharmaceuticals in Africa can be daunting, but there are certainly available opportunities to corner the marketplace and achieve positive results. At present, the majority of pharmaceuticals arriving in Africa are a result of government tenders or via the operations of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Although it is anticipated that multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers and traders will play a much larger part in the supply of pharmaceuticals over coming years.

Future of the pharmaceutical trade in Africa

Increased numbers of working-age Africans are leading to a rising middle class which is expected to amount to up to 30% of the population, while it’s also forecast that the total urban African population will exceed that of China and India by the year 2050. This increased urbanisation will mean that 22 out of 30 of Africa’s major cities will see GDP of over $20bn by the year 2025. Better infrastructure within cities means that pharmaceutical supply which is focused upon these pockets of growth is more likely to prove successful, as opposed to adopting a blanket approach to distribution which will be hampered by weaknesses within the supply chain infrastructure.

The compound annual growth rate of the pharmaceutical market in Africa is anticipated to grow by at least 6% for prescription drugs, 9% for generics, 11% for medical devices and 6% for medicines bought over the counter between the years 2013 and 2020.

Successful supply of pharmaceuticals in Africa will rely very strongly on forging strong local teams and business partnerships. As there is no overarching African pharmaceutical regulatory body, it will be essential to reach an understanding of different regulatory environments and work closely with government bodies and leaders within the health sector.

Challenges of supplying pharmaceuticals in Africa

Although there is major potential for supplying pharmaceuticals in Africa, the continent provides a number of significant challenges. The weak cold chain infrastructure is a particularly critical point for suppliers to consider, which is one of the major reasons focusing on supplying cities could prove more beneficial. Fragmentation of distribution and wholesale channels, coupled with a lack of expertise in the local management of stock, will prove difficult to overcome without substantial investment in business infrastructure. Organisations will also struggle to improve the quality of operations of local distributors, which is why it’s important to establish good relationships and healthy networks with local teams.

The marketing of products will also pose significant challenges as there is a lack of knowledge and education about disease states and medical requirements among medical personnel and insufficient numbers of clinics and pharmacies to distribute pharmaceuticals.

While global markets are predicted to slow or stagnate over the coming decades, Africa is the only market that’s likely to experience high growth rates. The key to success in the supply of pharmaceuticals to Africa lies in reaching an understanding of each individual market and grasping every opportunity to become part of the region’s forecast growth.

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