Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that it signed a letter of intent on innovation and digitalization in Africa with the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) yesterday evening. This followed a three-day workshop within the “Lab of Tomorrow” series, which is aimed at enabling companies to cooperate with experts from a developing country on solutions to that country’s problems. These solutions are profitable business ideas for entrepreneurs, who wish to further the advancement of the country.
“We want to boost innovative strength in Africa through collaboration,” said Christoph Beier, management board member of GIZ, on Thursday evening in Darmstadt. “This also includes conducting further ‘Lab of Tomorrow’ workshops in the pharmacy field. Working with German companies such as Merck makes it easier to achieve development objectives globally. Partnerships such as this one are tremendously important to us.”
At the signing, Kai Beckmann, member of the Merck Executive Board and Chief Administration Officer, said, “Our common goal is to work with German and local partners to develop and implement digital models in Africa. Among other things, we are aiming to better interlink patients, physicians, medical professionals, and scientists with one another and to improve their access to relevant information.”
The “Lab of Tomorrow” workshop was held at the Merck Innovation Center in Darmstadt. The theme was “Smart logistics for medication.” Around 100 participants from 40 companies and institutions gathered to work on improved logistics solutions for Kenya. Representatives from the pharmaceutical industry and logistics sector, the political community, development assistance and representatives from Africa were among the attendees.
At the signing ceremony following the three-day workshop in Darmstadt, Günter Nooke, Commissioner for Africa within the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Chancellor’s personal representative for Africa, said, “With our strategic partnership for a digital Africa, we want to bring German and European companies together with German development policy experts. There is a great deal of common ground between our interests, those of companies and our partner countries. Together, we can achieve better and more sustainable results.”
Access to health, which was also the subject of the letter of intent with the GIZ, is one of Merck’s strategic priorities. In addition to environment and culture, Health is a strategic sphere of activity of corporate responsibility endeavors. Around one-third of the world’s population has no access to effective and affordable health care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), developing countries account for around 93% of the world’s disease burden, but only for 18% of global income and 11% of global health spending. Merck is working to help populations who lack access to diagnostics, treatment, and prevention methods. Our strategy comprises the four pillars of Availability, Affordability, Awareness, and Accessibility (more information on this topic is available here). In the most recent ranking of the international Access to Medicines Index, Merck came in sixth place.
The African continent is of strategic importance to Merck. In November 2015, the members of the full Executive Board visited a total of ten countries on the continent on independent travel itineraries. Afterwards, the Executive Board met in South Africa, exchanged experiences and defined the future direction. Merck is counting on the growth potential of Africa and is planning to increase sales on the continent to € 500 million by 2020 (more information is availablehere).