Taher Hassen has been in position as GM for Morocco and Tunisia at Merck for four years, overseeing year-on-year double-digit growth for the affiliate ever since. His current priorities include facilitating greater access to innovation within Morocco and bringing Merck’s world-class technological know-how to the country.
Merck has been present in Morocco for the past 30 years and represents about 30 percent of the group’s North Africa business. In terms of what Hassen expected from the GM role, he notes that “It was not so different from my expectations as I had worked in Morocco previously as Merck’s head of marketing oncology for North & West Africa.” He continues, “I knew the management and a big part of the team that was already in place so there were no big surprises in terms of daily operations. Morocco is also a very welcoming country; therefore, my integration was almost immediate.”
Living here has allowed me to deep dive into the country’s dynamics, gain a better sense of the challenges that lie ahead, and set an effective strategy for the coming years
However, Hassen does stress that “I have learned a lot of new things in terms of Merck’s partnerships and peers, as well as the country’s overall business environment. Living here has allowed me to deep dive into the country’s dynamics, gain a better sense of the challenges that lie ahead, and set an effective strategy for the coming years.”
For Hassen and Merck, this strategy centres around access to innovation, which, he admits, is “The point where we, as a country, need to put more focus.” Hassen is keen to point out the role of innovative multinationals such as Merck in bringing international standards and best practices to developing markets. “We are raising awareness of more widespread and comprehensive consideration of pharmacoeconomic assessment tools, which show the true value of treatments beyond the immediate cost and their potential savings to healthcare systems throughout the years,” he states.
Hassen is also at pains to dispel negative stereotypes about the volatility of North African markets such as Morocco. “Morocco is a very attractive country in terms of investment, given its stable currency, good infrastructure, industrial production capacities, and connectivity with Europe and the rest of Africa,” he proclaims.
“I would not use the word ‘volatile’ to describe Morocco, but rather ‘dynamic.’ In the last couple of years, the market has grown consistently and made regular improvements in terms of access to and quality of healthcare and medication. More Moroccans have medical insurance than ever before and hospitals – both public and private – are improving their services day after day. The market is not optimal in term of maturity, but it is heading in the right direction. In Merck’s areas of expertise – oncology, neurology, fertility, cardiology, diabetes & endocrinology – we are also seeing a tangible improvement in access.”
Hassen also feels that Merck has a role to play in sharing its technology to improve Morocco’s overall innovation ecosystem. “In Morocco, we have opened up our technology to peers and have shown our willingness to help with knowledge transfer in terms of biotechnology specifically,” he articulates. “We are at the forefront of new techniques in biotech production and this knowledge transfer helps achieve one of our strategic objectives: to support patient access to medicines across the world.”