Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Durban-headquartered and JSE-listed Aspen Pharmacare, will launch one of the largest general anaesthetics facilities on the continent in the Eastern Cape city of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) on Monday.
Established through a R3.4 billion investment in the province, the new production line falls in line with government’s plans to push localisation.
The anaesthetics facility adds to the multinational pharmaceutical company’s presence in the province, where it previously launched Africa’s first high containment facility in 2018, and in July became Johnson & Johnson’s contracted manufacturer of its Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa.
Aspen will be launching its new facility together with Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition.
“The South African government remains committed [to] collaborating with the private sector, to intensify efforts to support localisation and local supplier development,” the department said in a statement.
“This initiative shows South Africa’s progress in enhancing Africa’s capability in pharmaceutical manufacturing, opening up intra-continental supply chains and market linkages, and creating export opportunities, particularly to the African continent,” the ministry added.
In September, Aspen revealed that it is currently in talks with J&J about obtaining a licence that would allow it to increase production and supply of its Covid-19 vaccine on the continent.
The licence would allow the pharmaceutical giant to make, market and sell the vaccine to other African countries, potentially helping the continent meet its vaccine targets sooner.
Africa has ambitions to vaccinate 60% of its adult population by 2022. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that 70% of countries on the continent had failed to vaccinate 10% of their population by the end of September 2021.
Securing the licence could also have a positive impact on South Africa’s vaccination drive as the country seeks to vaccinate as many people as possible.
Currently, the country has inoculated more than 28% of its adult population and has recently opened vaccinations to youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17. However, the progress made is still a far cry from the government target to vaccinate 67% of the population by end of the year.
Aspen on the up
In the midst of Covid-19, Aspen is on the up and is benefitting from its deal with J&J.
Over the last year, Aspen has managed to more than double its share price.
In the period before Covid-19 Aspen did not declare a dividend due to its high debt levels. However, for its latest results (year ended June 30), the company reported that it will distribute R1.2 billion worth of dividends to shareholders.
The company also managed to reduce its debt by more than half, from R35.2 billion in the previous reporting period to R16.3 billion for its 2021 financial year.