South Africa, a nation with one of the continent’s largest and most advanced economies, has a rich and complex history. For approximately 40 years, it was under the rule of a white minority government, a period that began in 1948 when the National Party came to power and instituted apartheid—a system that legally enforced racial segregation that had already existed. However, the late 1980s marked the beginning of the end for apartheid, thanks to international isolation, armed resistance, and mass protests. In 1994, South Africa held its first universal elections, marking a turning point in its history.

Pharmaceuticals Business in South Africa
Pharmaceuticals Business in South Africa

The democratically-elected leadership following these elections embarked on a path of reconciliation and addressing social inequalities. Nevertheless, the country has faced significant economic challenges. In 2022, the World Economic Forum issued a warning that South Africa was at risk of state collapse due to soaring unemployment rates, high crime levels, unsustainable government spending, mismanaged institutions, and rampant corruption.

Republic of South Africa: Key Facts

Let’s delve into some essential facts about the Republic of South Africa:


  • Pretoria (executive)
  • Cape Town (legislative)
  • Bloemfontein (judicial)


  • Total: 1,221,037 sq km


  • Approximately 60.6 million people

Official Languages

  • Zulu
  • Xhosa
  • Afrikaans
  • English
  • Sepedi
  • Swazi
  • Sesotho
  • Setswana
  • Xitsonga
  • Tshivenda
  • Ndebele

Life Expectancy

  • Men: 60 years
  • Women: 67 years


At the helm of South Africa’s leadership is President Cyril Ramaphosa. He assumed the presidency in February 2018 after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, resigned amidst corruption allegations. Cyril Ramaphosa is a successful, albeit occasionally controversial, businessman who also served as the leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC). Unlike many of his contemporaries, Ramaphosa didn’t go into exile during the apartheid era but instead fought against the injustices of white minority rule from within the country. He played a significant role in the negotiations to end apartheid and in drafting South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution.

After a period of focusing on business, Ramaphosa returned to politics in 2014 and eventually became the President of South Africa in 2018. His leadership faced its first electoral test in May 2019 when the ANC secured victory, although with its slimmest margin since the end of apartheid.

Taj Pharmaceuticals in South Africa

South Africa Country Profile
South Africa Country Profile

Taj Pharmaceuticals, a prominent global player in generics and one of India’s leading pharmaceutical companies, has been actively exporting pharmaceutical products to South Africa. They have been participating in tenders organized by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and meeting the requirements of hospitals. Taj Pharma is also seeking partnerships with local distributors to expand its presence in the region.

About Taj Pharma

Taj Pharma is primarily known as an ISO-certified pharmaceutical manufacturing company based in India. They adhere to WHO cGMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) standards and have received accreditation from the relevant authorities. Their manufacturing facilities strictly comply with the GMP norms, as laid down in the “Revised Schedule M” by the Drug Controller General of India, Ministry of Health, and Government of India.

With a proud portfolio of over 2000+ products across various categories, Taj Pharma has successfully served more than a thousand clients worldwide. Their commitment to quality and innovation is unwavering.

Pharmaceuticals Landscape in South Africa

South Africa’s pharmaceutical landscape is diverse and crucial to the nation’s healthcare. Here are some insights into this sector:


South Africa boasts a vibrant media landscape that reflects the country’s diversity. Both state-run and commercial TV networks broadcast nationally, and a significant number of viewers subscribe to satellite and cable services. MultiChoice, based in South Africa, extends its satellite pay-TV services to numerous African countries.

Historical Timeline

The history of South Africa is marked by significant events and milestones:

  • 4th Century: Migration of people from the north, joining the indigenous San and Khoikhoi populations.
  • 1497: Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama lands on the Natal coast.
  • 1652: Jan van Riebeeck, representing the Dutch East India Company, establishes the Cape Colony at Table Bay.
  • 1795: British forces seize the Cape Colony from the Netherlands, later returning it in 1803 before annexing it again in 1806.
  • 1816-1826: Shaka Zulu establishes and expands the Zulu empire, creating a formidable military force.
  • 1835-1840: The “Great Trek” sees Boers leave the Cape Colony to found the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
  • 1867: Discovery of diamonds at Kimberley.
  • 1877: Britain annexes the Transvaal.
  • 1879: British defeat the Zulus in Natal.
  • 1880-1881: Boers rebel against the British, sparking the first Anglo-Boer War, which ends with a negotiated peace and the restoration of the Transvaal as a republic.
  • 1880s: Discovery of gold in the Transvaal triggers a gold rush.
  • 1899: Second Anglo-Boer War begins.
  • 1902: Treaty of Vereeniging ends the second Anglo-Boer War, making the Transvaal and Orange Free State self-governing colonies of the British Empire.
  • 1910: Formation of the Union of South Africa, uniting former British colonies of the Cape and Natal with the Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State.
  • 1912: Native National Congress, later renamed the African National Congress (ANC), is founded.
  • 1913: Land Act introduced to restrict black South Africans from purchasing land outside designated reserves.
  • 1914: National Party is founded.
  • 1919: After World War One, South West Africa (now Namibia) comes under South African administration.
  • 1948: The National Party adopts the policy of apartheid (separateness) upon coming to power.
  • 1950: Population classified by race, Group Areas Act segregates blacks and whites, and the Communist Party is banned. The ANC responds with a civil disobedience campaign led by Nelson Mandela.
  • 1960: The Sharpeville Massacre sees the killing of 69 black demonstrators, leading to the banning of the ANC.
  • 1961: South Africa becomes a republic and leaves the Commonwealth. Nelson Mandela heads the ANC’s new military wing, launching a sabotage campaign.
  • 1960s: International pressure mounts against the government, leading to South Africa’s exclusion from the Olympic Games.
  • 1964: ANC leader Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • 1970s: Over three million people are forcibly resettled in black “homelands.”
  • 1976: Over 600 people are killed in clashes between black protesters and security forces, sparking an uprising that begins in Soweto.
  • 1984-1989: Townships witness revolt and the declaration of states of emergency.
  • 1989: FW de Klerk succeeds PW Botha as president. Public facilities are desegregated, and many ANC activists are released.
  • 1990: Ban on the ANC is lifted. Nelson Mandela is released after 27 years in prison, and Namibia gains independence.
  • 1991: Multi-party talks begin. De Klerk repeals remaining apartheid laws, and international sanctions are lifted. Major clashes occur between the ANC and the Zulu Inkatha movement.
  • 1994: The ANC wins the first non-racial elections, and Nelson Mandela becomes president, leading a Government of National Unity. Commonwealth membership is restored, and remaining sanctions are lifted. South Africa takes a seat in the UN General Assembly after a 20-year absence.
  • 1996: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, commences hearings on human rights abuses during the apartheid era.
  • 1998: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission brands apartheid a crime against humanity and holds the ANC accountable for human rights abuses.
  • 2010: South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup.
  • 2013: Nelson Mandela passes away at the age of 95.
  • 2014: Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” due to his prosthetic limbs, is sentenced to five years in jail for the killing of his girlfriend.
  • 2018: President Zuma resigns under pressure from the ANC over corruption charges. Cyril Ramaphosa is chosen as his successor.
  • 2022: The World Economic Forum warns that South Africa is at risk of state collapse due to unsustainable government spending, high unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure.

Access to Quality Medicines in Africa

Africa Profile Pharmaceuticals Business
Africa Profile Pharmaceuticals Business

Africa, home to approximately 1.2 billion people, faces unique healthcare challenges. The continent carries a significant burden of diseases, with 60% of global HIV/AIDS cases and over 90% of annual malaria cases occurring here. However, Africa has struggled with limited access to quality, safe, efficacious, and affordable medical products over the years.

In 2022, a tragic incident occurred in Gambia where children reportedly lost their lives due to acute kidney injury caused by consuming adulterated cough syrups. Such events are not only shocking but also tragic because they could have been prevented.

Challenges to Timely Access to Quality Medicines in Africa

Several factors contribute to the challenge of timely access to quality medicines in Africa:

  1. Weak and Fragmented Regulatory Systems: Many African countries lack clear policies and coherent legal and regulatory frameworks. A study in 2012 revealed that it took an average of 4 to 7 years to register a new product in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to just 6 to 12 months in high-income regions. Additionally, there is a shortage of competent regulatory professionals and underdeveloped regulatory infrastructure. Ineffective collaboration exists among the National Medicine Regulatory Authorities (NMRA).
  2. Limited Local Pharma Manufacturing: Africa has approximately 375 pharmaceutical manufacturers serving over 1.1 billion people. However, these companies are mainly concentrated in North Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, pharmaceutical manufacturing is concentrated in just nine out of 46 countries. This disparity is significant when compared to countries like India and China, which have thousands of drug manufacturers.
  3. Limited Financial and Technological Support: Many African countries operate with limited social benefits or universal health coverage. Additionally, there is a lack of state-of-the-art healthcare facilities capable of handling innovative global health products. A substantial digital divide exists among African health systems, with poor linkages between different information systems and solutions.

Delays in Introducing New Medicines

Data from Francophone West Africa and South Africa indicates significant delays in accessing new medicines compared to other nations. As depicted in the graph below, Francophone West Africa has introduced fewer new products over the last 12 years compared to South Africa and India. South Africa faces delays of 1 to 6 years in introducing new products compared to the United States, while Francophone West Africa experiences delays of at least 8 years.

Initiatives to Improve Access

Africa is taking proactive steps to address these inefficiencies and improve access to medicines. Here are some positive developments:

African Medicine Agency (AMA)

Recently, 15 African Union member states ratified the treaty to establish the African Medicine Agency (AMA). This continent-wide regulator aims to complement national and regional efforts and streamline regulatory processes across Africa. Instead of negotiating with 54 individual countries, drug and medical device companies can engage in one assessment process and receive a recommendation that applies to all African nations, significantly reducing product introduction times.

African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF)

The African Development Bank has created the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF) to enhance access to technology in pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing. African pharmaceutical companies often lack the capacity and resources to engage with global pharmaceutical companies. The APTF aims to bridge this gap, although it will take time to become fully functional.

Future Steps

Africa’s diversity, with its various cultures, market characteristics, and economic conditions, makes it challenging to identify a single solution to accelerate regulatory and access-to-medicine timelines. However, addressing common barriers at the country level is a promising start.

IQVIA’s 2022 whitepaper on the Assessment of Access-to-Medicine Timelines in Selected Middle East and African Countries suggests several key reforms to improve regulatory and access-to-medicine timelines:

  • Comprehensive Regulatory and Reimbursement Policies: Countries should develop holistic and comprehensive regulatory and reimbursement policies in line with best practices followed by developed nations. Robust surveillance of drugs in circulation is essential to maintain drug quality.
  • Emergency-Use Approvals and Fast-Track Reviews: Implementing emergency-use approvals and fast-track review processes can significantly improve accessibility. Several countries have issued fast-track registration procedures for new drugs already approved by regulators in developed countries, such as the US and Europe.
  • Pharmacoeconomic Assessments: Many countries in the MEA region should strengthen their Health Technology Assessment (HTA) capabilities to enable informed decision-making. For example, Ghana has a working group reviewing HTAs, providing a framework for health economic evaluations.

Ghana has made strides in its HTA journey, using evidence-based assessments to approve indications like childhood cancer for national reimbursement. As more countries in the region build their technology assessment capacity, real-world evidence will become increasingly crucial in health spending decisions and ensuring access to critical healthcare products.

South Africa Country Profile Pharmaceuticals Business
South Africa Country Profile Pharmaceuticals Business

IQVIA continues to support its clients by providing data assets, in-depth healthcare knowledge, and advanced analytics to meet specific needs. The company’s public health practice collaborates with governments, international donors, multilateral healthcare organizations, and private sector stakeholders to facilitate evidence-based decision-making.

In conclusion, South Africa’s pharmaceutical landscape is intertwined with its complex history and the challenges of accessing quality medicines in Africa. While there are hurdles to overcome, initiatives like the African Medicine Agency and the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation show promise in improving access to essential medicines across the continent. Addressing regulatory inefficiencies and embracing evidence-based decision-making can contribute to a healthier future for Africa’s population.