Saudi Arabia is aiming to become a more attractive investment destination for multinational pharma companies through economic development projects that facilitate ease of doing business. Not stopping there, the Kingdom has a bold ambition to become a pharma hub for the entire Middle East region.
Saudi Arabia has the largest pharma market in the region, and according to recent industry data, the market is expected to be valued at USD 10.74 billion by 2023. Part of this growth is due to a high prevalence of noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and asthma, which affect a significant percentage of the population. Looking to tackle these issues, government health expenditure has more than doubled in the past decade.
In line with the country’s Vision 2030 plan, which includes diversifying the Saudi economy through partnerships with domestic and international public and private sector organizations, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), its official investment promotion agency, is aiming to make the Kingdom a major hub between East and West. The country’s geographic location is a major advantage in making this vision attainable and the Saudi government is attempting to bolster this by creating a more favourable business environment and attractive investment destination.
To this end, SAGIA has taken the bold initiative of constructing four so-called “Economic Cities,” a project to promote economic diversification and create job opportunities. One such economic city, King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), has created more than one million jobs. SAGIA’s development initiative improved the Kingdom’s rankings for ease of doing business in 2011, landing at 12th in the world out of 183 economies.
Many multinational pharma companies are taking note of the opportunities that these economic cities represent and are establishing presences there. Sanofi opened a manufacturing facility in KAEC in 2014, further enhancing its over 50-year partnership with the Kingdom, and Pfizer also inaugurated a new KAEC facility in 2017, with capabilities including solid dose manufacturing, packaging, and warehousing.
Most recently, Saudi officials visited Brazil with the intention of attracting Brazilian pharma companies to invest in the region. During a meeting at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce in São Paulo in October, Raed Al-Swayed, vice president of Saudi Pharma Industrial Clusters highlighted the Kingdom’s aim of becoming a pharma industry hub for the Middle East and North Africa, hoping to convince pharma stakeholders to bring their business to the region.