Exploring The Rising Life Sciences Market in Africa

Wendy Farrell 04 Jun 2024 4 minutes

Exploring The Rising Life Sciences Market in Africa

The life sciences market in Africa is undergoing rapid growth, emerging as a pivotal contributor to the global healthcare landscape. As of recent estimates, the African healthcare market, a key component of the life sciences sector, is valued at an impressive USD 259 billion. This market is poised to become the second largest worldwide after the United States by 2030, indicative of its rapid expansion and increasing significance.​ Various factors, including demographic shifts and technological advancements, propel this remarkable growth trajectory. Africa's population, expected to double to 2.5 billion people by 2050, brings with it a rise in non-communicable diseases, reshaping healthcare needs and demands across the continent.

Impact of Healthcare Demand on Africa's Life Sciences Market

A rapidly growing population and changing disease patterns drive healthcare needs in Africa, which heavily influence various aspects of healthcare delivery and product demand. 

Due to the surging healthcare needs of Africa's growing population, there is an increasing need for medical products and services, driving market expansion. This expansion is evident in the scale-up of production and distribution by pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and biotechnology firms in Africa.

Africa's epidemiological shift from communicable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) also plays a vital role. The growing prevalence of NCDs like diabetes and hypertension is driving demand for long-term treatment solutions, diagnostic services, and specialized care. This shift is influencing pharmaceutical companies to expand their product portfolios to include chronic disease medications and for healthcare providers to invest in specialized diagnostic and treatment facilities.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

A significant trend in Africa's life sciences sector is the expansion of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). African governments are starting to recognize that these collaborations are vital for sustaining health services and bridging gaps in healthcare provision. For instance, the Kenyan government partnered with private companies for the Managed Equipment Services (MES) Project to improve medical equipment availability in public hospitals. This initiative involved leasing medical equipment from private suppliers, significantly enhancing diagnostic and treatment capabilities nationwide. However, success in this area requires strong political commitment, coherent integration into national health strategies, favorable fiscal conditions, clear PPP policies, and a solid regulatory framework​​.

Localization of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted African countries' reliance on global pharmaceutical markets and imports of essential medicines. As a response, governments are focusing on pharmaceutical localization to overcome global supply chain disruptions and strengthen domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing. This includes partnerships and joint ventures with local companies, supported by local governments, providing a foundation for long-term localization goals and shaping the pharmaceutical and healthcare landscape in the region.

Investment Landscape

The rising healthcare expenditure in Africa is attracting both foreign and local investments in the life sciences sector. Global life sciences companies see Africa as a lucrative market with significant growth potential, leading to increased investments in healthcare infrastructure, research, and local partnerships. Additionally, local investments are bolstering the growth of indigenous companies in the life sciences sector, promoting a more self-sufficient and sustainable healthcare ecosystem.

Regulatory Reforms Catalyzing Market Growth


Regulatory reforms in response to healthcare demands are facilitating market growth. These reforms are streamlining the approval processes for medical products, ensuring quality standards, and encouraging investments in the life sciences sector. Key aspects of these reforms include streamlining the approval processes for new medical products, as seen with the East African Community’s harmonized regulatory framework and South Africa’s SAHPRA, which expedite drug approvals and promote regional market access. Additionally, maintaining and elevating quality standards for medical products and services, exemplified by Nigeria's NAFDAC, is crucial for ensuring patient safety and building trust in healthcare systems. Furthermore, these reforms attract investments by creating a more predictable and transparent environment, with incentives like tax breaks and clear guidelines for Public-Private Partnerships. These changes are making the life sciences sector more business-friendly and innovative, contributing to the sector's growth and improving healthcare outcomes across Africa.

The Role of Digital Tools and Technologies


Digital tools and technologies are also playing a role in driving the rise of life sciences in Africa. The digital health sector's revenue is anticipated to expand at an annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.74%, with expectations of achieving a market volume of US$9.49 billion by 2028. The last few years have seen various health-tech pilot programs being conducted in Africa, employing innovations like portable ultrasounds, digital record-keeping, and AI-powered cardiac diagnosis tools. These pilots demonstrate how technology can enhance healthcare access, affordability, and quality.

Key Technologies Reshaping the Sector

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning: While much of the tech landscape in Africa is still being explored for the use of AI, is has been utilized in certain pilot projects for drug discovery, patient diagnostics, and predictive analytics, offering more personalized and efficient healthcare solutions. The use of AI in healthcare and clinical trials shows immense promise; however, its prevalence across Africa is currently limited.

  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT devices revolutionize patient monitoring and care management. Wearable health devices and remote monitoring tools enable continuous patient care. However, wearable technology is primarily used in urban areas of Africa, as the remote regions do not always have the infrastructure to support this technology. 

  • Blockchain Technology: Blockchain is becoming increasingly important for ensuring data integrity and security in healthcare. It provides a reliable framework for patient data management, supply chain tracking, and combating counterfeit medicines, a critical issue in many African countries.

These technologies facilitate a more efficient, transparent, and patient-centric healthcare model. Digital health records, telemedicine, and e-health platforms make medical services more accessible, bridging the gap between urban and rural healthcare in Africa.

Future Outlook and Predictions for Africa's Life Sciences Market


As Africa's life sciences market grows, its future appears increasingly promising. Technological advancements in AI and machine learning are predicted to significantly impact healthcare delivery, making it more personalized, inclusive, and accessible. Moreover, working with AI presents exciting possibilities to accelerate the creation of medications in Africa, especially for tropical diseases. 

RWS’s role, with our expertise in language solutions and regulatory compliance, becomes increasingly crucial in this context. As Sharon du Toit, RWS's Language Delivery Director, insightfully notes, "Africa is one of the most linguistically diverse continents, with untapped localization potential in life sciences. To successfully tap into this market and cross the linguistic divide, companies need to build trust by speaking directly to the hearts of the African people." Embracing this perspective, our language solutions and regulatory compliance expertise will support the market's growth, particularly in areas like digital health and AI. By navigating the complex regulatory environments and bridging language and cultural barriers in this diverse region, we aim to facilitate the effective implementation and global expansion of emerging healthcare technologies and strategies throughout Africa.

Wendy Farrell

Wendy Farrell

Senior Director of Content Development
Wendy Farrell is the Senior Director of Content Development for RWS’s Regulated Industries division. In this role, she leads a team that creates and delivers compelling content for the life science, financial and legal industries, including articles, presentations, white papers, research and thought leadership for professionals in highly regulated industries. With over 15 years spent in the localization industry, Wendy has collaborated with experts and helped organizations build more meaningful connections with their global audiences, through her background in global marketing, sales, solution development, multimedia and training.
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