Establishing local pharmaceutical production in East Africa: south-south production networks and the state

Project Details


This Regional Studies Association early career grant-funded project (£9,163.95) explored the supra-national efforts at regional pharmaceutical development in the East African Community (EAC), in a context where most of the trade is governed by other Southern – specifically Indian – lead firms. An article in Territory, Politics, Governance, titled “A new economic geography of development? South-South trade, value chains and production networks”, sets out a wider agenda within which this project sits.

Much of the policy initiatives in support of local pharmaceutical production in East Africa, and across the wider continent, advocate regional integration to create a larger regional market and potentially offer greater economies of scale. The EAC, in particular, is the leading African regional block for creating policy initiatives to support local pharmaceutical production and regional integration. In addition to analysis of secondary materials, approximately 40 interviews were conducted with key pharmaceutical stakeholders in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Conference presentations were made at the RSA Annual Conference (Piacenza, May 2015), the Global Economic Geography Conference (Oxford, August 2015) and the RSA Early Career Conference (Sheffield, October 2015). Invited seminars were given at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development in Delhi (October 2015), the British Institute in Eastern Africa (January 2016 - as featured by the Xinhua News Agency) and Queen Mary, University of London’s Department of Geography (February 2016). A small two-day workshop at Manchester (May 2016) on “South-South trade and local production: pharmaceuticals in the global South”, provided an opportunity to share findings with a small group of specialist researchers.

This small project will now be significantly expanded through a larger multi-country, comparative study, supported by an ESRC Future Research Leaders Award (September 2016 – August 2019), titled “India's pharmaceuticals, local production and public health security in sub-Saharan Africa: a comparative study”.

Key findings

The notable findings include:
• A gap between the considerable policy-level initiatives in the EAC in relation to regional integration for pharmaceuticals and firms’ everyday experiences of a market which is still largely nationally segmented.
• Variation across different actors in terms of the understanding of what is “local” production, with the EAC adopting a supra-national regional perspective, while many national policymakers still identify, and treat as, local along national lines.
• Doubt about who within the region, and whether all, will benefit from greater regional integration
• Greater optimism and investment by East-African owned firms in local production, although a small number of firms with key ties to the Indian industry are amongst the most advanced manufacturing firms in East Africa.
Short titleR:HDD HDZ/Horner/RSA2013
Effective start/end date1/06/1430/11/15

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Global Development Institute


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