Doing business in Middle East and North Africa

5 tips for a successful pharma business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

In recent years, the region has strived to diversify its oil-based economies. This broadening of horizons has created an opportunity for global investors to venture further into the area. But it can be daunting to navigate the nuances of doing business there.

Pharma business in the Middle East and North Africa could yield great rewards. But companies need initiative and drive to make their investment successful. Any new pharma company should take into consideration these 5 tips for success in MENA.

1) An understanding that MENA is as culturally diverse as Europe

When westerners think of the Middle East, they invariably think of sand, oil, and camels … and of course there is much more to the region than this. MENA is a culturally diverse region which spans from Morocco to Yemen and consists of about 20 countries, each which its own culture, background, and history. In the area live about 357 million people, or 6 % of the global population.

MENA is an economically diverse region that encompasses the oil-rich countries of the Gulf and resource-scarce economies as Morocco, Yemen, and Egypt. How you will do business-wise in the MENA region depends significantly on what product or service you sell and your target market.

2) Be careful when selecting and managing local partners

The best way to approach a partnership is to look for synergies between the two organizations. Commercial and intellectual synergies are the two most important.

Be sure that the people you will be working with from your partner company are like-minded individuals who clearly understand their roles and responsibilities. Always maintain regular contact with the senior-most management team in the local partner company. Keep them up to date with progress and inform them of good news as well as bad. You must ensure you always secure and maintain mindshare from the management.

Ashraf Attia, Immedica Pharma’s Regional Director and Head of MENA & Turkey has over 20 years’ experience in the specialty care business. He is an enthusiastic leader with proven ability to develop organizations and MENA businesses


3) Be sure to have a successful access strategy

A successful access and launch strategy in the heterogeneous MENA market needs diligence and understanding. Challenges could be:

  • varied registration timelines and requirements. Delay in achieving regulatory milestones leads to a considerable opportunity cost. Companies need to manage various registration scenarios across MENA for their innovative pharmaceutical products to be approved
  • downward pressure on drug prices. Pricing policy revisions, reference pricing, and Gulf Cooperation Council price unification allow payers to exert price controls
  • competitive purchasing environment. MENA markets present a challenging mosaic of tender archetypes and purchasing behaviors

4) Select the select the right people in your company. Selecting the right persons is one of the most important critical success factors.

You need to understand your hiring needs, understand your candidate persona, and clearly define your Employee Value Proposition.

In recruiting, you must not just aim to fill the vacancy in your company. Recruiting the right way is getting the best people for your company and getting the best jobs for your potential employees.

5) Build fundamental stakeholder relations

Another critical consideration is navigating the decision-making processes. You need to know which key stakeholders there are in the local authorities for your target markets. Do not forget to keep them updated on your company developments.