Pharma firms eye Tunisia, other African markets as entry points to EU countries

Hyderabad, April 1 | Updated: Apr 2 2005, 05:30am hrs
In a new initiative to tap the European market, pharma majors are chalking out plans to make an entry through the African continent, specially from an entry point like Tunisia, located at the tip of north Africa.

Companies like Dr Reddys Laboratories, Glenmark, Hetero Drugs, Lark Laboratories and many more are planning to enter Tunisia for market introduction (doorstep) and move upwards for expansion into the EU countries.

This initiative is an outcome of the Focus Africa programme, mooted by the ministry of commerce,

Government of India, which is helping to open up avenues for the pharmaceutical companies to tap newer markets.

Speaking to FE, Elyes Kasri, ambassador of Tunisia in India, said that the Tunisian domestic market is about $400 million, growing at about 6% annually. The local production caters to only 42% and the rest is taken care by way of imports, he informed.

Incidentally, the market is dominated by the French but there is enough space in the areas of medicine for human consumption, vaccines, generic medicine, para-medical products and offshore clinics.

The Tunisian pharma market already has MNCs like Pfizer, Aventis, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Unimed, etc, which have created subsidiary companies besides many other important private and public units.

The strategy of Tunisia is to consolidate the dynamics of industrialisation and encourage exports, the ambassador said. At present, there are 27 foreign companies operating in Tunisia.

Following the formation of a universal healthcare programme by the government, overall procurement programme will be more focussed from India and we are looking towards supply of bulk drugs from India, he said.

Being a fast growing market, there is scope for setting up 100% subsidiaries in our country or backward integration facilities to make an entry to other European countries, he added.

The biggest attraction to many is that there is total tax exemption for the first 10 years on the income originating from exports and projects focusing on regional development.

According to Mr Kasri, there is a dynamic growth in the industry which is close to 6% per annum.

The state has increased its budget from 1% to 1.25% for scientific research indicating opportunities for more partnerships.

Being a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and signatory to agreements to avoid double taxation with most OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, Tunisia is the first country on the southern rim of the Mediterranean region to sign an association and free trade agreement with the EU which allows a free trade zone and access to EU markets.

On the travel front, it is just one hour away from Europe and within two hours almost 80% of Europe can be accessed.

Further, the Indo-Tunisian working group on drugs and pharmaceuticals, which was set up last year, has decided to take an Indian delegation to Tunisia and Algeria on April 3, 2005 accompanied by the secretary, ministry of chemicals and fertilisers.

The focus of the meeting is to discuss four core issues: Certification of regulating procedures; research and development and training of professionals; fostering trade through partnerships and JVs; and institutional tieups with trade associations of both the countries.