Square pharma to manufacture drugs in Kenya this July

Square looks to get hold of the $30 million drug market in Kenya and five other East African countries — Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan — and fulfill the unmet demands of medicines in those countries

Square Pharmaceuticals has constructed a state of the art pharmaceutical plant at EPZ Athi River in Machakos County of Kenya. It is expected to be commissioned in July this year.

“Square Pharmaceuticals’ first overseas manufacturing unit in Kenya has received the good manufacturing practices (GMP) approval today (Friday). This is also the first investment of Bangladesh in the pharmaceutical sector outside the country,” General Manager at Square Pharmaceuticals Prosenjit Chakraborty wrote in a LinkedIn post on Friday.

The offshore plant is set to help the company diversify its supply chain and mitigate any impact of Bangladesh's LDC graduation a decade later.

Square looks to get hold of the $30 million drug market in Kenya and five other East African countries — Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan — and fulfill the unmet demands of medicines in those countries.

“This is a milestone for not just Square, but the country itself, as it not only diversifies the export basket but also speaks volumes about our expertise in the pharmaceutical and medicine sector and the quality product we can produce,” Jahangir Alam, the executive director of Square pharma, told Dhaka Tribune.

The company had extended its range of services towards the highway of the global market, pioneering exports of medicines from Bangladesh in 1987 and has been exporting antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products. 

It currently has an export market that covers 42 countries manifesting the credibility of Square Pharmaceuticals Limited, as per the company.

The top brass also thanked the initiative of the government that helped the local pharma giant to step foot abroad and tap into the foreign market.

The central bank earlier gave permission to four private business entities to invest $10 million in foreign countries in a major leap forward for reining in capital flight alongside easing global marketing of local products. 

As one of the permitted companies, Square Pharmaceuticals will also invest $1 million in the Philippines, opening up an opportunity for the company to gain a foothold in the import-dependent $6 billion pharmaceutical market — the third-largest in the Asean region.

Square had been waiting to begin manufacturing in its newly built Kenyan plant much earlier. However, the pandemic delayed the commencement of operation abroad, according to the official of the company.

The plant, which is the largest in East and Central Africa, is in its final stages of getting operational licenses from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, according to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Betty Maina.

“The plant is expected to get the licences this week to enable it to start full commercial operations for the production of malaria and diabetes drugs, and other essential medicines,” Maina told reporters on Friday. 

She said when the plant commences full operations, Kenya would benefit from additional 500 direct jobs from the plant, lower costs of essential medicine and increased foreign exchange earnings from exports of drugs.

The CS was speaking during a meeting with visiting senior officials from Bangladesh at her office at the NSSF building to discuss the commissioning of the Square Pharmaceuticals plant.

Maina, who lauded the company for investing over $75 million in the country, encouraged the firm to inform other potential investors from Bangladesh to take advantage of Kenya’s conducive business environment and set up manufacturing facilities in Kenya.

During the meeting, it was agreed that Bangladesh would share with Kenya its extensive knowledge in pharmaceutical production, as well as set the required requisite skills.

“We agreed that Bangladesh will also enter into collaboration with Kenyan Universities on the training of industrial pharmacists in addition to the clinical pharmacists that Kenya is currently training to assist in the management of modern pharmaceutical plants like the one set up by Square Pharmaceuticals in Kenya,” said the CS.

The meeting was attended by the Principal Secretary for Industrialization Amb Kirimi Kaberia, Director of Industries in charge of Private Sector Development Stephen Odua, and the visiting officials from Square Pharmaceuticals who included the Executive Director (Finance and Strategy) Muhammad Zahangir Alam, General Manager (International Marketing) Prosenjit Chakroborty and General Manager (Human Resources) Fakhrul Hasan.

Square Pharmaceuticals posted Tk1,594 crore in annual profit for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which is 19.38% higher compared to the previous year, boosting the top pharmaceutical company's earnings per share to Tk17.99 for the year, up from Tk15.07.

The profit figures include that of its subsidiary companies. But the individual companies also posted growth in profits on a standalone basis.

The pharma market of the country is growing by 15% every year, according to the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries. The market is expected to grow four times to Tk1 lakh crore by 2030.