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South African ruling party mulls state drugs firm

Published on 19/07/2011

South Africa's ruling party Tuesday said it was considering setting up a state-owned pharmaceutical company to capture the flourishing drugs manufacturing market.

The plan which was first mooted in 2007 at the African National Congress (ANC) national conference was revived by the party after its executive meeting over the weekend.

“Serious discussions started at the lekgotla (meeting) on starting a state pharmaceutical company. It’s not just an idea,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told journalists.

Mantashe added that cabinet had been asked to look into the matter.

“Brazil’s state company is opening a branch in Mozambique. Now the question we are asking is why should we be a market for Brazil instead of being a market for ourselves,” said Gwede Mantashe.

South Africa’s drugs manufacturing scene is dominated by the country’s largest private company, Aspen Pharmacare, Indian firms Ranbaxy and Cipla and American outlets.

Mantashe said the formation of a state-owned company would not spell doom for the private sector.

“The fact that there is a pharmaceutical company, a state-owned pharmaceutical company doesn’t mean that the pharmaceutical industry will be closed down, he added.

“There will still be a pharmaceutical industry, there will be a state company operating in the sector.”

South Africa has 5.6 million people living with HIV, according to official figures. A million are receiving state sponsored drugs.