Since inception, our ethos, Healthcare. We Care. has extended beyond manufacturing and supplying medicines across the world. It is at the heart of Aspen and what we stand true to, and it is evident in our patient care over 25 years.
From as far back as 2001, we embedded our ethos with the opening of the Engcobo Clinic in the Transkei with former, later President Nelson Mandela. This project was the launchpad for our SED activities which have since been adopted through our global businesses with the likes of our flagship Mandela Day Campaign being well received by more than 865 000 deserving beneficiaries to date.
We have always been at the forefront of providing healthcare solutions for global pandemics, as we did with the launch of one of the first generic antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/Aids in August 2003. Through successful lobbying efforts for patents, we were able to treat more than one million patients each day with an Aspen ARV, and this initial effort formed part of our cornerstone of delivering true patient care.
In 2020 we also responded swiftly and decisively to the COVID-19 pandemic, initially through global contributions which we made with both our anaesthetics portfolio and dexamethasone supply. This action complemented our initiatives to build capacity and expertise to support global efforts and, in particular, address vaccine access inequality across Africa which continues to received our undivided attention.
Humanitarian crises, due to natural disasters and military conflict, have also received our ongoing support. Over the past 18 months we have provided multiple forms of medical, surgical, and other aid to patients and citizens in Ukraine, Lebanon, and other territories. In February 2023 we donated critical care medicines and aid to patients impacted by the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, and recently we supplied an additional 82 000 life-saving sterile injectables for Ukrainian patients.
Aspen has always had a reputation of responding to regional pandemics and humanitarian crises. This will remain consistent with our core business philosophies of building sustainable communities where we have a presence and we will continue striving to provide humanitarian relief to communities impacted by catastrophic events or disease burdens.
Established in February 2008, Aspen Global Incorporated (“AGI”) is the holding company for the Aspen Group's international businesses. The professional management and diverse multi-cultural team implement Aspen's international strategy through a global distribution network and a commercial, logistical and administrative infrastructure which ensures that the Group's Commercial Pharmaceuticals portfolio reaches more than 115 markets worldwide.
The past year has been a period of notable celebrations and achievements as AGI celebrated our 15th anniversary as a highly valued Aspen Group subsidiary. During 2023, our commitment to consistent and ongoing focus on people, culture and engagement and our strategic efforts to partner with all levels and diversities in the team in creating the next phase of our growth was also recognised across multiple platforms and through three highly acclaimed accolades.
For the fourth consecutive year, AGI was awarded the prestigious Top Employer Mauritius 2023 Award in recognition for our commitment to raising the bar on the manner in which we connect with our people and enable their personal and professional growth. The Top Employer Institute is the global authority in recognising excellence in people practices.
Taking pride in our employees and their satisfaction within our business has always been a leadership priority. Great Place To Work® is the global authority on workplace culture and we created an opportunity to showcase how we build a high-trust workplace culture, quantify our employee experience, and improve employee engagement. During the year, our commitment to employee satisfaction was rewarded with a Great Place To Work Mauritius May 2023 – May 2024 accreditation.
Aspen is a participant to the United Nations Global Compact (“UN Global Compact”). The UN Global Compact Principle 6 calls for businesses to up-hold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Women's Empowerment Principle 2 advocates for businesses to treat women and men fairly at work, respect and support human rights and non-discrimination, and pay equal remuneration, including benefits for work of equal value and strive to pay a living wage to all women and men.
AGI has fully subscribed to these UN Global Compact principles and in so doing has become the first entity in Mauritius and in the Indian Ocean to be awarded the prestigious Equal Salary Certification, presented by the eponymous Equal Salary Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation based in Switzerland. This international certification is designed for businesses with 50 or more employees, that demonstrate their commitment to fair pay among their female and male employees.
We are very proud of these achievements, and they are testimony to the great Employee Value Proposition we offer our team at AGI: a place where employees feel they belong, they identify with, believe in and are proud of the Company's mission statement; one where personal development, meaningful, challenging, motivating and rewarding careers are enabled; and one where physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of everyone is a priority. This is what makes us Aspen Global Incorporated.
Next-generation vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics will be crucial to responding to future pandemics - but to be truly effective in responding to a global threat, they need to reach the countries that need them most. Health security for Africa remains non-negotiable. Aspen has a clear objective and focus to capacitate Africa and provide high quality, affordable access to critical medicines across a broad geography including 60 low- and middle-income countries.
As part of our previously stated strategic objectives, we are committed to expanding sustainable and durable vaccine manufacture on the continent to reduce Africa's global vaccine dependency burden, thereby furthering the global goal of universal access to vaccines and medicines. We also continue to support African nations with their Expanded Programs on Immunisation and the African Union's goal of procuring 30% of vaccines from African producers and reducing vaccine imports from 99% to 40% by 2040.
Reference: African Union Heads of State Bureau of 17 May 2020
In 2022 we concluded an agreement with Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd (“Serum Institute”) to manufacture, market and distribute four Aspen-branded routine vaccines which include the pneumococcal, rotavirus, polyvalent meningococcal and the hexavalent vaccines. One of these products is the Conjugated Meningitis (“NmCV-5”) vaccine. Positive clinical trials published earlier in 2023 for the NmCV-5 vaccine are particularly encouraging and position Aspen to advance competitive local manufacture of this desperately needed vaccine to reduce vulnerability on the African continent. Technical transfer for the four vaccines has progressed according to plan and production from our sterile manufacturing in Gqeberha, South Africa is anticipated to commence in Q4 of FY2024.
We remain intently focused on execution of our collaboration with Serum Institute and driving vaccine volumes for African countries and Gavi / UNICEF to further support enhanced access to medicines.
Aspen South African Operations has been actively seeking sustainable solutions for energy generation in line with the Group's environmental, social and governance goals. As part of this effort, a project was implemented in 2021 to convert from Heavy Fuel Oil to Steam Systems to Biomass to Steam at our Gqeberha-based site.
Proposals were received from several creditable suppliers who could assist in the conversion to generate steam using biomass and supply it to Aspen on a per tonnage basis. Technology and experience were two of the most important criteria in selecting a successful partner who would operate the system independently on an ongoing basis. A further important criteria included their ability to sustainably source the biomass required to fire the biomass boilers.
Our partner of choice has extensive technological experience and has successfully integrated their supply chain to include providing wood chips as biomass fuel. They own a sawmill and have installed several satellite wood chip shredding facilities at selected companies which dispose of significant amounts of waste wood. These are primarily pallet manufacturing and rental organisations as well as importers of machinery who receives their goods in wooden crates.
Construction of the boiler house started in August 2022 and is presently nearing completion with the first steam from the new boiler house expected in Q3 of the current calendar year.
A secondary project is currently underway to invest in infrastructure to incorporate the destruction of pharmaceutical waste into the boiler house. This project will further enhance Aspen SA Operations' control over sensitive waste material, to ensure that it does not contribute towards environmental harm while simultaneously realising a reduction in destruction costs.
Aspen's team in the Andean Region comprising Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, partnered with Colombian-based Catalina Muñoz Foundation to significantly change the lives of two families.
Through our heartfelt commitment and desire to make a meaningful difference, both the Fandiño and Tovar families received the gift of a house in celebration of Mandela Day 2023.
The team of 36 volunteers from Aspen's Bogotá office constructed two houses on 4 July 2023, each measuring 387.5 square feet. These homes can accommodate two families of six members each who have been living in extreme poverty in a tin structure without electricity. They have also been forced to endure extensive and unrelenting exposure to the natural elements, particularly the rain and intense cold.
The houses were constructed from prefabricated panels and were built within a day under the direction of an on-site architect appointed by Catalina Muñoz Foundation. A small self-sustaining vegetable garden was also established for each family.
The gratitude expressed by both families was indescribable and there is little doubt that the humanitarian spirit demonstrated by Aspen's volunteers will have a lifelong impact on these beneficiaries.
The Catalina Muñoz Foundation was established 17 years ago and this non-profit organisation is tirelessly committed to offering habitat and community development solutions to socially and economically vulnerable communities. Through strategic alliances, corporate volunteering, and youth engagement, it has been generating impactful outcomes and has built over 3 800 houses to enhance the quality of life of less fortunate families.
Aspen's Group Legal team has partnered with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) since 2016 through a community project intended to support the development of aspiring lawyers. This partnership, based on Group Legal's mantra to teach is to learn and to learn is to teach, affords final-year law students the opportunity to attend the four-day Aspen Group Legal Workshop.
This Workshop provides insight and much-needed practical exposure to law practiced in a multinational commercial environment, and an introduction to an in-house legal function.
Learning content is carefully created to provide maximum broad exposure through interactive presentations by the Group Legal team. The presentations cover topics such as contract law, intellectual property, and general commercial law. Specific focus is placed on key practical legal skills, supported by interactive case studies designed to challenge critical thinking, concluding with assessments.
The Workshop also includes a panel discussion with the Aspen Legal team on career paths within the profession. This provides students with practical advice and guidance into various options and opportunities in their future legal careers, rounded off with Curriculum Vitae preparation and interview insights and skills.
Our Law Graduate Learnership Programme feeds from the student Workshop population. This Programme is founded on the continuing initiative to harness the powerful benefits of aligning Business to benefit Education in support of our Community. To this end Aspen supports deserving graduates who have not been able to secure law articles by doing so on their behalf with a partnership law firm. We also pay their monthly stipend and training costs, and the graduates benefit from being partnered with a mentor from Aspen's Legal team.
To date over 320 students have attended the Workshop, which strives to develop the next generation of lawyers in South Africa. There has been overwhelming appreciation for the Workshop from the students over the years with the limited places being highly contested.
Aspen has enjoyed a successful collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand's Health Sciences Faculty's Pharmacy and Pharmacology Department through, among others, the highly integrated INVEST and PharmApprentice programme.
These programmes bridge the gap between academic curricula, the experiences of a working environment, increased understanding of the pharmaceutical sector and the adoption of entrepreneurial practices to equip postgraduate pharmacy students to contribute towards South Africa as a competitive global pharmacy industry.
INVEST, an acronym for innovation, networking, vision, empowering, sustaining and transitioning, strives to deliver competent and skilled postgraduate pharmacy students who have developed a growth mind-set and who are well prepared to manage the latest demands of the profession.
The inter-dimensional INVEST programme addresses four primary facets. The first relates to the pharmaceutical industry in which students are also exposed to hospital, community, and retail pharmacy environments. This is done in concert with four lectures covering the likes of intellectual property, the pharmaceutical sector, patient access programmes, as well as financial and business management.
The second dimension is addressed during third year studies, when students participate in the PharmApprentice programme. This programme amplifies the need for acute business and entrepreneurial thinking encouraging learnings to establish businesses and create job opportunities opposed to routinely taking up employment and also solving critical public health challenges. During this phase students conduct research and develop a group project while integrating their different skillsets with subjects such as chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmaceutics into the real world setting as a pharmacist. The programme calls for an innovative approach to propose a solution to the likes of a topical social challenge, healthcare need or application, or a new device or dosage form which could be more user friendly to patients. The projects are scored and evaluated with the top three submissions given an opportunity to present their solution and demonstrate business and financial skills to a team of Aspen executives. This form of experiential learning equips students to exert themselves beyond academia, to embrace stressful boardroom situations, entrepreneurship, and business applications in order to better prepare for the corporate sector. The successful group wins a trip to Aspen's Gqeberha-based site to glean deeper insights into pharmaceutical manufacturing practices and associated disciplines.
Our collaboration also involves post graduate grants for Masters and Doctoral candidates. This is the foundation of the third dimension of the programme which contributes towards developing community and clinical pharmacists, a strengthened pharmaceutical sector with local retention of highly skilled and rewarded talent.
The fourth dimension aims to ensure that the post graduates have an infinite understanding of the demands of a corporate environment, the financial aspects associated with entrepreneurship, honed business skills and the ability to integrate optimally into the pharmacy industry so as to enhance South Africa's competitive position in this sector.
While this collaboration has only been in effect since 2016, we are confident that our investment in the next generation of pharmacy graduates will yield positive outcomes and will contribute towards a driven and highly regarded entrepreneurial South African pharmacy landscape.