Different kind of pillbox: Egypt's military joins big pharma

Different kind of pillbox: Egypt's military joins big pharma
2 min read
23 January, 2017
Egypt’s prime minister has issued a decree allowing the military to receive the license required to form a pharmaceutical company.
Egypt's military will now form its own pharmaceutical company [Getty]

Egypt's military has been given the green-light to form its own pharmaceutical company, according to a decree by the prime minister published on Sunday.

"The National Agency for Military Production is permitted to partake in the founding of a company called the Egyptian National Company for Pharmaceuticals," read the decree.

The decision comes shortly after the government raised prices of hundreds of medicines earlier this month following months-long negotiations with pharmaceutical companies affected by dollar shortages and a weakening currency.

Egyptian pharmaceutical companies have been facing difficulties importing active ingredients they need to make generic medicines that millions of Egyptians rely on due to the foreign currency crisis.

Consumer prices have surged since November when the central bank floated the Egyptian pound and slashed fuel subsidies as part of a three-year IMF loan deal.

The Egyptian currency, which had been pegged at 8.83 to the dollar, was trading at almost 19 pounds to the dollar last week.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has often called on the military to assist in major infrastructure projects and with distribution of subsidised commodities to keep a lid on rising prices amid the acute currency crisis.

The military has for decades played a key though opaque economic role, producing everything from washing machines to pasta, alongside building roads and operating gas stations.

In August, the military intervened to resolve a baby formula shortage that caused prices to spike and led to protests, promising to import it and sell it at half the price.

It accused companies that imported the formula of hoarding it to raise prices.

The same month, the ministry for military production signed an agreement with the health ministry for the country's first plant to produce cancer medication.

However, Sisi claimed in December that the military's economic activity accounted for no more than two percent of the country's output, dismissing suggestions the military could control as much as half of the economy.