Merck plans African expansion to double sales, workforce

Karl-Ludwig Kley
Karl-Ludwig Kley | Contributed photo
Merck & Co., a global leader in the pharmaceutical industry, is looking to gain a larger presence over the next five years across the African continent.

This plan and a request for support from Africa's business community were the focus of a recent press conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The expansion is expected to boost the continent's economy and create a significant number of jobs.

"Merck is committed to supporting healthy families, healthy communities and healthy economies in Africa,” Merck Chairman and CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley said. “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.”

After the press conference, Merck officials toured the 10 African countries in which it operates, including South Africa (its largest African operation), Kenya, Angola and Mozambique, with about 400 workers combined. By 2020, Kley said, the company plans to double its sales number and employ at least 1,000 people.

Several significant Merck projects already have taken place in Africa, including the launch of an online and mobile platform to calculate diabetes risk, apps to be used by diabetes and fertility patients, and a mobile platform for physicians.

"The entrepreneurial spirit in Africa and the creativity to come up with out-of-the-box solutions are simply amazing,” Stefan Oschmann, who will step into the CEO position at Merck in April, said. “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.”

One of Merck's major projects set to take place in Africa is the production of the diabetes medication Glucophage in Algeria. Also planned are the opening of an office in Nigeria and the distribution of the HIV-detection product Muse.

“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 health care and life-science products, we are perfectly positioned to help address the needs of the people of Africa.”

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