Improving healthcare in Africa--interview with Mahesh P. Karande, Head of the Africa Cluster for Novartis.

Position:Communique - Interview

Mahesh Karande is the Head of the Africa Cluster for Novartis. In this role, he is responsible for leading Novartis business activities in sub-Saharan Africa. Mahesh has extensive experience working in healthcare in developing countries, including a role as Novartis country head in Egypt. He has also held positions at top multinational companies including Novartis, Pfizer, Ikaria and McKinsey. He earned an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

How does Novartis see Africa's potential as a healthcare market, now and in the future?

Mahesh Karande: Africa is a complicated mix of new and persistent healthcare challenges. It is still disproportionately affected by infectious diseases that put a significant burden on struggling economies, and life expectancy remains 15 years less than the global average. Malaria and other contagious--and often preventable--diseases like HIV, Ebola, pneumonia and even leprosy still stand in the way of growth. At the same time, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are projected to overtake communicable and nutritional diseases as the most common causes of death in Africa by 2030.

That being said, the continent also presents a major opportunity. The pharmaceutical sector in Africa is on the rise, and is expected to grow as the continent's economic power grows. Just think: seven of the world's 10 fastest growing economies will be in Africa during the next five years, and across the continent, more than 50% of the population has a mobile phone and more than half of Africa's population are projected to live in cities by 2030. As such, Africa has tremendous potential as a pharmaceutical market. To be ready to fully capture that potential in the future, we need to be investing and helping build it today.

Do you think Novartis is well equipped (including having the right portfolio) to tackle the double disease burden in Africa?

Mahesh Karande: As a company, we have a long-standing relationship and commitment to Africa, with decades of experience on the ground. Today, we are the third-largest multinational healthcare company in Africa, and we aim to become the leading healthcare company by tripling access to our medicines by 2018.

I believe our broad portfolio of high-quality products can help to address Africa's double disease burden of infectious and noncommunicable diseases. Our...

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