Belief, determination and patience are the key ingredients that a pharmaceutical company invested in South Africa has consistently used over the years.
The recipe continues to work for B. Braun, which has found South Africa to be a profitable investment destination. The company, which is headquartered in Germany, has had a presence in South Africa since 1995.
“We believe in the future of South Africa. The main target is to produce products at the highest quality standards and to bring the cost down as much as possible merely through productivity and efficiency. This was the mission when we pursued this investment,” says B. Braun Managing Director for Southern Africa, Jens Papperitz.
His comments come ahead of the fourth South African Investment Conference (SAIC).
In 2019, B. Braun pledged to invest R300 million at the SAIC. This was to expand its capabilities, tripling its manufacturing volume, where a significant portion was to be produced for exports.
The investment was spent on the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility that has united the production of intravenous sterile products, dialysis concentrates and disinfectants.
As a result, the company created employment for about 160 people at its integrated pharmaceutical plant, situated in the Longlake Business Park in Modderfontein, Johannesburg.
The construction of the plant saw the creation of between 500 and 1000 job opportunities.
The majority of the new employees, who live in the nearby township of Alexandra, were recruited through the Youth Employment Service (YES) programme.
YES is a business-led collaboration that seeks out ground breaking ways, through innovation and technological best practice, to reignite the economy and give youth a dignified first chance.
As a proud participant of the YES programme, the company has improved the lives of young people employed at its Johannesburg plant.
YES beneficiary Axubile Celenda who works as a filler and printer for large volume parenteral (LVP) bags, says he enjoys being independent as he can pay for his studies at the University of South Africa (UNISA) where he’s pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management qualification.
With ambitions to grow in the company, Celenda aspires to work in the company’s marketing department.
Another beneficiary, Mpho Mokoena, recalls how he jumped at the opportunity to explore a career at the pharmaceutical company.
“I enjoy my job because the products that we manufacture saves lives. I am proud of my job,” says Mokoena who previously worked in retail.
Working for a better society
With continuous investments, the company has become one of the leading providers of dialysis services in Southern Africa.
As a leading global player in medical devices and pharmaceuticals, the company, has in the last 20 years grown and reinvested its profits in South Africa – a country which boasts a business friendly environment. The country also offers excellent infrastructure, a wealth of natural resources as well as a large resource base of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labor.
Strategically located at the entry point of the continent, South Africa also offers access to a market of 1.3 billion people.
B. Braun Southern Africa employs about 920 people.
“When I started in my job about seven years ago, we had about 500 employees and now have close to 1 000 employees. We have created employment. South Africa is still one of the key investment destinations, as it offers infrastructure and a skill set that is still superior to other African regions,” Papperitz tells SAnews.
Commitment to development
According to B Braun’s Human Resource (HR) business partner and head of HR, Felicia Ntuli, the beneficiaries will get opportunities to grow in the organisation as some did courses post their school education.
Ntuli can attest to the company’s commitment to development as she was empowered through the company’s youth development programme.
“I started with the company five years ago as a HR and Imperial Officer. Through my hard work and dedication, I was recognised to represent the company as a business partner. The business partner role has been fascinating and challenging at the same time,” she says.
When the company built the plant, several recruitment drives targeting young people, were conducted in Alexandra. Upon employment, the young people received in-house training on all the procedures of working in a pharmaceutical plant.
The company prioritises locally manufactured products and limits imports to only equipment that is critical for the success of the factory or has superior efficiency over locally sourced products.
B. Braun’s piping and air-handling systems were manufactured locally.
Papperitz says the country offers tremendous opportunities that require investors who are committed to the country.
“See the opportunity that this country and this continent offers. The opportunities are tremendous but Africa is not for the faint hearted. Think long-term; you cannot give up when you experience setbacks and invest in skills transfer with as much knowledge that you can and you will be rewarded,” says Papperitz.
The company intends to create more jobs on the continent as it has expanded its operations into Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“We are running a number of dialysis equipment in the country. The market for dialysis is going to grow, as there is a need for the aging population. Hopefully, we will treat more patients in South Africa and the neighbouring countries.
“We want to manufacture more products. We have a manufacturing site in Knysna and I am pushing hard to do more export manufacturing out of South Africa. My vision for the next five years is to produce what can be produced here and produce it for Africa and other continents,” he says.
As part of government’s efforts to create an attractive investment environment to help promote an inclusive economic growth and boost employment, the fourth SAIC will be held on 24 March 2022 at the Sandon Convention Centre in Johannesburg.
The conference is part of government’s investment drive to attract R1.2 trillion over five years. It attracts delegates from South Africa and across the world to discuss investment opportunities in the country.
Since the first investment conference in 2018, South Africa has attracted R770 billion in commitments across a wide range of economic sectors.
By Nosihle Shelembe