In Summary
  • Merck, Pfizer, GSK and Johnson & Johnson have donated significant amounts of drugs for the Neglected Tropical Disease control programme.
  • Reckitt Benckiser, through the Dettol initiative, works in communities across the globe and with partners to deliver hygiene education.

With a macroeconomic growth of between five and 10 percent, according to the 2016-2017 Comesa biennial report, Kenya was recognised as one of the fastest growing countries in the world.

It has become a business hub in East Africa, with diverse investments by foreign firms keen to penetrate the lucrative regional markets. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception.

Statistics show that Kenya is the largest pharmaceutical market in the EAC, worth $740 million (S75bn) in 2014.

The entry of the world’s Top 10 pharmaceutical companies (with a combined revenue of about $330 billion in 2017) through representations, local affiliates and distributors, buttresses the country’s attractiveness for investment.


However, there has been a long-running debate on the merits and demerits of the multinationals and their impact on the host country.

In Kenya, they offer benefits such as foreign direct investment and tax revenue.

The direct flow of capital improves the balance of payments, which results in export promotion and import substitution as more Kenyans benefit from high quality innovator products, including specialised biological products, vaccines and orphan drugs.

The firms, through their local affiliates, also invest heavily in building capacity and creating jobs, with a plethora of skills transferred to the host country.

Other benefits include increased competitiveness in the industry, resulting in better prices. Technology transfer also means that Kenya benefits from the many years of research and development already done by the multinationals.


On the other hand, critics decry the unmonitored influence the companies have on the country.

But from a pharmaceutical industry’s perspective, the influence has been positive by supporting the development of international pharmaceutical standards/guidelines and policies.

Other concerns include uncertainties with evolving business strategies, transfer pricing and export of profits.

There have also been concerns on environmental, health, safety and substandard activities in the host country.

However, this is mitigated by the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated.

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