Merck counts on Africa for growth

merck_logoMerck, a leading science and technology company, announced today that it plans to considerably expand its presence on the African continent over the next five years and is counting on the region’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovation power for growth.

“Merck is committed to supporting healthy families, healthy communities and healthy economies in Africa,” Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer of Merck, said at a press conference in Johannesburg today. “We intend to more than double our workforce in Africa and we also aim to more than double our sales on the continent by 2020.”

The company currently has around 400 employees across ten African countries and aims to increase this number to around 1,000 by 2020. Merck’s largest location is South Africa, from where the company also steers business in South-East Africa including Kenya, Angola and Mozambique. Merck’s sales in Africa will climb to around € 200 million in 2015 and are expected to reach € 500 million by 2020.

Merck has delivered healthcare services in Africa since 1897. With a population rising faster than in any other global market and a growing middle class, the company is increasingly tapping into the continent’s innovative spirit to create health awareness and help respond to unmet medical needs. The Group’s Executive Board visited ten African countries this week to underscore its commitment to and growing importance of the continent. Among other things, Merck announced plans to start local production of the diabetes treatment Glucophage in Algeria, inaugurated an office in Nigeria, and launched the sale of its Muse® cell analyzer, used to detect HIV.

“Africa currently has around 1.1 billion inhabitants,” Kley said. “This figure is expected to increase tremendously, reaching at least 2 billion people by 2050. Africa not only has the world’s fastest-growing population, but also a growing middle class. With our portfolio of healthcare and life science products, we are perfectly positioned to help address the needs of the people of Africa.”

In addition to selling products in Africa, Merck also aims to tap into the continent’s potential for cutting-edge innovation, which can shape Africa’s future and inspire solutions to tackle global challenges. Among other things, Merck has started an online and mobile platform for diabetes risk assessment, apps for diabetes and fertility patients and a mobile platform for doctors, all of which were developed in Africa.

“The entrepreneurial spirit in Africa and the creativity to come up with out-of-the-box solutions are simply amazing,” said CEO-elect Stefan Oschmann, who will become CEO in April 2016. “In a world that is increasingly shaped by digital solutions, this innovative spirit is enabling Africa to spearhead technological solutions in areas such as e-health, mobile banking or community information.”

Healthcare and Life Science

Merck’s growth strategy for Africa mainly includes its Healthcare and Life Science businesses. In Healthcare, 2016 will be a year of investment in selected African countries for Merck’s Consumer Health business, which comprises prescription free over-the-counter pharmaceutical products. Among others, the company plans to market well-known brands such as Seven Seas, Femibion and Neurobion in Africa.

In Biopharma – also part of Healthcare – Merck is counting on its experience in markets with high-growth potential around the globe and intends to match the right products with healthcare needs in selected markets. One example is an agreement signed earlier this week for local production of Merck’s type 2 diabetes gold-standard treatment Glucophage by the Algerian pharma company Novapharm. Medicines produced at Novapharm are intended to address the needs of local markets.

In Life Science, Merck intends to expand its presence in Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, and Angola. This business offers a range of more than 300,000 products globally to help facilitate life science research and pharmaceutical production by clients in academia and industry. This week, Merck started selling its Muse Auto CD4/CD4% system in several African countries. This product monitors patients’ specific T-lymphocyte cell counts, which are standard indicators of when to begin treatment for opportunistic infections, initiate antiretroviral therapy, and monitor the progression of diseases such as HIV. This precise system works at low cost per test and can be used to monitor adults as well as children.

Merck is also embracing local innovations to help people in Africa. One example is its joint campaign DORA (Diabetes Online Risk Assessment) with pharmacists and external diabetes management partners for the early detection of diabetes. This campaign will allow people, for example in South Africa, where it was launched this week, to take part in an online test using either smartphones or computers and find out in a few clicks whether they are at risk for diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of people with diabetes in Africa is expected to double by 2035. The proportion of deaths due to diabetes in people under 60 years of age in Africa is 76% and 46% of people living with diabetes are still undiagnosed. When diabetes goes undiagnosed, it can cause further complications.

As part of its corporate responsibility activities, Merck has pledged to eliminate the devastating infectious disease schistosomiasis. More than 200,000 people die from schistosomiasis every year. In children, the parasitic worm disease also stunts growth and reduces their ability to learn. Together with the World Health Organization (WHO), we have taken up the fight against this neglected tropical disease. Thanks to our praziquantel tablets, 64 million patients have already received treatment.