Making Africa healthy

Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the worst health status in the world, according to the authors of Making Medicines in Africa. As policymakers turn their focus to healthcare, in part spurred on by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the authors argue that industrial development in pharmaceuticals and the capabilities it generates can play a crucial role in addressing the healthcare needs of the continent. Through a collection of case studies on industrial policies, Making Medicines in Africa shows the successes and pitfalls along the way. 

Take Kenya’s strong pharmaceutical industry, for instance. Import substitution was instrumental in laying the groundwork for growing the industrial base, the authors argue, followed by liberalisation and a consequent expansion of the strongest firms. This incubation approach worked, since the Kenyan pharmaceutical industry recorded continuous growth between 2007 and 2013, a period in which total production of tablets, capsules, liquid preparations for oral use and creams alone increased from US$34.1 million to $154 million and the sector is now busily exporting to other sub-Saharan countries. On the other hand, neighbouring Tanzania’s pharmaceutical industry, which was established later and shaped by more explicitly state-driven policies than Kenya’s, has been declining since 2009 due to factors such as the fragmented structure of the industry, and technological and financial issues, which have made it hard to match competition from imports. By 2013, only five locally operating firms remained on the market, compared to eight firms in 2009. Meanwhile, in South Africa, the government’s price controlling policy on medicines led to an average drop in medicine prices of 24% between June 2003 and June 2006, according to IMS Health, which may hold lessons for policymakers today.

A number of countries in Africa have viable pharmaceutical industries, which could be further bolstered by reform, such as the strengthening of regulatory authorities, regional market consolidation and reforming public procurement processes. Trade among sub-Saharan African countries has been gaining in importance and could bring price and technical benefits. In Making Medicines in Africa, the authors are optimistic that a thriving pharmaceutical industry in sub-Saharan Africa could serve as a catalyst for both improving healthcare and fostering economic development, too.

Mackintosh, Maureen, et al. (eds.) (2016), Making Medicines in Africa: The Political Economy of Industrializing for Local Health, Palgrave Macmillan

©OECD Observer No 309 Q1 2017




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q2 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 13 Nov 2018

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018