GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will spend £130 million ($216 million) over the next five years on a series of projects designed to boost manufacturing and R&D in Africa, CEO Sir Andrew Witty said today at the EU-Africa Business Summit in Brussels.

Most of GSK’s investment—£100 million ($166.4 million)—will be spent on building new plants across the continent as well as expanding manufacturing in Kenya and Nigeria. GSK already manufactures drugs in both countries as well in South Africa. However, the company is considering possible future manufacturing facilities in other African countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, and Rwanda.

GSK will also spend £25 million ($41.6 million) to create the world’s first open-access R&D laboratory in Africa focused on developing drugs to fight noncommunicable diseases. GSK researchers will work with outside investigators to focus on variations in the nature of certain illnesses in Africa, with the goal of examining the needs of African patients with chronic diseases.

GSK said its expansion plans would add 500 jobs to its current workforce in Africa, which now numbers 1,500. But the company has had African expansion on its proverbial radar screen of late. Last year, GSK launched a unit focused on drug sales in Sub-Saharan Africa—“the first step in a broader growth strategy for Africa,” according to the company’s annual report.

African sales now account for less than 2% or £500 million ($831.8 million) of the pharma giant’s total £26.5 billion ($44.1 billion) in annual sales.

“The transformation of Africa into a successful growth region is one such area that we need to focus on. There is a great opportunity for business to play a role, alongside governments and other agencies, to help deliver improved infrastructure in Africa and create prosperity to lift people out of poverty for good,” Witty said in a commentary published March 29 in The Daily Telegraph of London.

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