The private sector has many opportunities to use its resources and reach to encourage positive change. Today, we announced that GSK is taking such an opportunity to accelerate sub-Saharan Africa into an era of growth and prosperity.
It seems the area is poised for change. Africa’s gross domestic product has been growing, the upper and middle class population is increasing, foreign investment is rising, and regional stability is improving. These conditions make an opportune time for GSK to invest up to $215 million in Africa over the next five years. We will create at least 500 jobs and contribute to the development of home-grown capabilities and skills in Africa.
Other signs are not so encouraging. Infectious diseases (ID) have been and remain the main burden on the area’s healthcare system. HIV, malaria and respiratory tract infections are still among the most prevalent communicable diseases in the region. But non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—diabetes, hypertension and cancer—are increasing in prevalence with the growth in middle-class and more affluent lifestyles.
Current projections indicate that by 2020 the largest increases in NCD deaths will occur in Africa. There is a lack of knowledge about the causes and behaviors of the disease in Africans. For example, there is a generally-held belief that breast cancer in African women is biologically different because it often affects younger women and tends to be more aggressive.
GSK will invest almost $42 million to create the world’s first R&D Open Lab for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa. Scientists at GSK in the UK will work with African-based scientists to conduct high quality research to better understand NCDs in Africans.
Today is a good time for re-evaluation to determine how we can do more to alleviate acute poverty, build the continent’s healthcare infrastructure, and provide affordable access to medicines.
Only when the private sector joins with governments, other agencies, and nonprofits can there be renewed hope that together we can improve health and help lift people out of poverty. And we will get closer to the day that the medicines we develop can be delivered to all the people who need them around the world.