Aspen calls for a new special economic zone around its Gqeberha facility

As it commits to continuing to invest in the continent.
Aspen Pharmacare Group CEO Stephen Saad. Image: Supplied

JSE-listed Aspen Pharmacare group CEO Stephen Saad on Monday called for government to look into the development of a new special economic zone (SEZ) around its Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) manufacturing facility.

Saad was speaking at the launch of the group’s new general anaesthetics production line at the plant, which now makes it one of the largest manufacturing hubs for the product in the world.

Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer has also committed to ramping up its Covid-19 vaccine production capacities to 1.3 billion doses per annum specifically to serve the continent’s population.

The group’s CEO further took a stand against inequitable access to healthcare and committed to minimising this by continuing to invest in the continent.

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“As a company, we’ve made a commitment. It’s a commitment we really want to try and fulfil. We want to get our vaccine capacities to 1.3 billion doses, this [means] that for every African, there is one vaccine,” Saad said.

Access to treatments

“We are equally committed to providing anaesthetic volumes to ensure no African is ever denied these treatments. Just because others have a manufacturing base and know-how, it doesn’t mean we should stand back and not have access ourselves,” he added.

Approximately 90% of production at the anaesthetics facility will be exported.

“Aspen has and will continue to capacitate Africa and ensure that we create our own independent access – no begging bowls,” said Saad.

However, the company acknowledged that it cannot realise its ambitions without government’s support and asked government to consider establishing an industrial park around the facility that will propel further investment into the Eastern Cape province and the growth of the country’s economy.

Read: Aspen plans to expand vaccine manufacturing for African access

“Together with government, let’s develop industrial capacity and improve access to life-saving medicines across the continent,” Saad said.

‘Spawning an ecosystem’

Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel said government is open to exploring the viability of establishing a new industrial zone in the province, saying that “the opportunity now exists to have the plant spawning an ecosystem of suppliers” throughout the pharmaceutical value chain.

“The idea of localising more of the supplies and using the magnet of what Aspen has done as an opportunity to attract investment to new pharmaceutical facilities in this part of South Africa is very attractive,” said Patel.

Early in September, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (Dtic) acting deputy director-general of spatial industrial development and economic transformation, Maoto Molefane, said that in the fourth quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year, 10 of the country’s SEZs had attracted more than R56 billion worth of private investment and a total of 222 companies.

Southern Africa’s largest and most established SEZ, Coega (located north of Gqeberha in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality), attracted the largest portion of these investments.

Coega has attracted investment in the agro-processing, automotive, aquaculture and energy industries – reportedly worth more than R10 billion.

Should Aspen’s wish for another SEZ in the province materialise, the Eastern Cape will have three such zones – the other one being the East London SEZ in Buffalo City that offers support to the automotive, agro-processing and aquaculture industries.

“The Eastern Cape is well positioned to take advantage of the base that’s been created here by Aspen,” said Patel.

Read: Mercedes-Benz pushes for improvements to East London harbour

“The province and national government can work together to really build the sector to complement the Eastern Cape’s strength in car manufacturing. So cars and pharmaceutical products can become the brand of the Eastern Cape,” he added.

Talks with J&J on vaccine licence

Aspen, Johnson & Johnson’s contracted manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccines, announced its intentions last month to upgrade its relationship with J&J from the existing “fill and finish” deal to a licensing agreement.

The agreement would allow the pharmaceutical company to make its own vaccines and decide who to sell to.

Saad was loath to give specific details when asked by Moneyweb how discussions with the single-dose vaccine producer are going.

“I’m happy to say we are making progress and we hope to announce the results of that progress shortly,” he said. “We are certainly very engaged.”

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Why not make the whole country an SEZ if these are so effective. Why penalise South Africans carrying on normal business, but give incentives and rebates to foreign companies?
EFF-Commie, please explain.

Exactly.
But now Aspen will face all the other hoops they need to jump through; Labour Laws, Equity targets, Government red tape,the odd palm to be greased, infrastructure constraints, energy supply etc etc.
I often wonder how on earth big companies bother at all.

Some positive news for a change. How refreshing to see Biz SA talking and acting positive for a change. We can’t rely on the current government to do the right thing but if Biz SA like Aspen are prepared to put their money where their mouth is, we have a chance of recovery….a very small one …but a chance!
Next step…rid the country of racist BEE policies but encourage and reward companies that educate and employ the previously disadvantaged. One step at a time….we can do it.!
Actions speak louder than words…let’s go for it.

Having some delusions of grandeur and power I see!!!

One positive is that at least we know now how to spell that new city name!

End of comments.

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