GENEMARK: helping Africa to take care of itself
With the help of Investisseur & Partenaire pour le Développement (I&P Développement), an investment company in which the EIB is a shareholder, in 2003 Gisèle Étamé established GENEMARK, Cameroon's only generic drugs laboratory. Her aim was to bring down the selling price of quality generic drugs on local markets and ensure that they were immediately available.
The drugs market in Africa is stymied by a number of handicaps: fraudulent imports, counterfeit drugs, the black market, weak distribution channels, etc. Generic drugs in Africa, which account for some 20% of the market, come mainly from India and China.
As a pharmaceutical doctor with 15 years' experience in a number of internationally renowned laboratories, 45-year old Gisèle Étamé wished to set up her own laboratory in the Yassa district of Douala. GENEMARK was founded in 2003 and produces four major generic drug families (anti-infectives, anti-parasitics, anti-inflammatories and food supplements) in the form of tablets and syrups.
The company's flagship product is quinine syrup. Unlike capsules which must be broken to be administered and taken with water that is not always drinkable, syrup is perfect for treating children with malaria. Paracetamol and multivitamins are also produced in this form.
Sales up by 40% in 2010
Since 2008, I&P's funding combined with that of a South African investment fund has helped to support the company's development by broadening the product range, increasing production capacity, improving quality and deploying a sales team.
Accordingly, the production unit has been enlarged and syrup production increased from 4 000 to 12 000 litres a day. In 2010, sales have grown by 40% compared to 2009. GENEMARK now offers 15 drug products compared to six four years ago. The company has 25 employees and around 15 temporary staff depending on the size of its order book. All belong to a private health insurance scheme.
The laboratories are inspected about three to four times a year by the Department of Pharmaceuticals and Medicines. Thanks to the WHO (World Health Organisation) training that it has received, GENEMARK has a charter of ethics governing the preparation of drugs.
The outlook is bright, both in geographic terms as Gisèle aims to serve a larger part of Cameroon and the sub-region and because she plans to diversify the product range by starting to produce antibiotics. "Demand is growing at a brisk pace and it is still difficult to satisfy all our orders. We must therefore increase our manufacturing capacity by enlarging the building and purchasing new machinery. I&P plays a key role in our growth, including in our search for additional funding from local banks or social investors", she concludes.