KENYA – GSK, a British pharmaceutical company, has announced plans to shut down its commercial operations in Kenya after six decades.

The firm is expected to lay off an unexpected number of employees in a move resulting from the rising operational cost.

The review of the Kenya operations comes nearly five years after the pharmaceutical giant announced a reduction in its African operations.

However, the company clarified that the Nairobi Industrial Area plant will continue to operate under GSK’s stand-alone affiliate Haleon, a consumer healthcare venture that sells Sensodyne and Panadol.

The Sensodyne, Augmentin, and Panadol Extra supplier said it will instead outsource its operations to a third party to distribute its medicines in Kenya, but assured all stakeholders that the transition would be smooth.

Other consumer healthcare brands that are among the company’s portfolio include, Advil, TUMS, ENO, and Scotts.

GSK’s exit comes as the company rushes to overhaul its global business, resulting in the spin-off of the consumer health unit.

GSK spun off its consumer healthcare business, Haleon, in July, in order to focus on the lucrative prescription drugs and vaccines business, which includes brands such as Augmentin, Zentel, and Ventolin.

Haleon is the global leader in all of its major product categories, including Therapeutic Oral Health, Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements, Pain Relief, Respiratory Health, and Digestive Health.

GSK rejected Unilever’s £50 billion (US$56 billion) bid for the unit at the end of last year, claiming that it undervalued the company.

It ceased marketing medicines to healthcare professionals in 29 Sub-Saharan African markets, but maintained local operations in Kenya and Nigeria, as well as representative offices in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, as per local Business Daily newspaper.

Other African countries where GSK has a presence include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, and South Africa.

The company has played an important role in the Kenyan market, introducing Mosquirix, a malaria vaccine designed to reduce child mortality.

Despite the marketing shift, GSK’s drugs and vaccines are likely to remain a force in Africa.

GSK, for example, secured the first supply contract for its malaria vaccine Mosquirix from the world’s largest buyer of vaccines, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF announced in August that it will pay up to US$170 million to obtain 18 million doses of the GSK shot over the next three years. Malaria killed nearly half a million children in Africa alone in 2020.

Previously, global companies such as Unilever, Eveready Ltd, Cadbury, Colgate, and Reckitt Benckiser (Dettol) stopped manufacturing in the country due to high costs such as electricity bills and high taxation.

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