Boehringer Ingelheim
27 September 2017
Jacqueline Berlin

“Innovation requires a proactive approach of diversity”

Marc Hasson has a vast experience in the pharmaceutical industry: in his role as of a Regional Business Manager within the emerging markets organization, he leads the implementation of Boehringer Ingelheim’s strategy and works on setting up long term plans in China, South East Asia, South Korea, India, Middle East and Africa.


Today, Marc Hasson tells us about his “fantastic experience” with the “Afrika kommt!” initiative, giving us highlights of his collaboration with his colleague Alexander Badong. A guest feature by Taiseer Kuzbari.

Mr. Hasson, what makes “Afrika kommt!” valuable?


Africa is one of the highest  growing regions from the economic perspective in the last few years and it is expected to grow significantly. “Africa kommt!”  enables us to get a firsthand knowledge for the region where we believe there is a future for our markets.


Despite the fact that this market is small, we want to strengthen our presence and  be in a position to leverage the development of the African continent.  Why are we doing this? Because we acknowledge that many of the African countries are  still facing very serious health issues in terms of healthcare affordability. Therefore we cannot access these markets in the way we are use  to doing in other parts of the world.


Consequently, we need to find a way where we can transition to a classic model, while helping the population  get access to better healthcare.



How committed is Boehringer Ingelheim in improving access to healthcare and knowledge in Africa?


Our management board has set up a task force which is working on finding new concepts which can be implemented in Africa to improve access to medicine, in particularly Diabetes and stroke prevention. This is  in addition to the other fields that  we have the experience in and where we can contribute to healthcare accessability significantly.


We would  also like to further improve the management skills of the young qualified African executives and to expose them to  how large enterprises are operating from a strategic perspective to further develop the African continent.



How can Diversity fuel Innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim?


Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. If we have the same people with the same background looking at certain problems, they will likely come up with similar solutions which might not be necessarily the ideal one. Therefore, the more you are able to get different perspectives based on different experiences and insights, the more innovative solutions you will get. 



From a strategic point of view, what should we do more than talk about Diversity?


“Afrika kommt!” has helped me to realize that we need to be proactive in diversity. We have had a very positive experience with bringing Alexander Badong on board in our team. I think this is a trigger to do more on a larger scale to create enduring diversity. In addition we must implement proactive, long-term strategies that span the talents management cycle. In this way,  they can contribute much stronger to the innovation within our company.



What are the most significant achievements of the “Afrika kommt” partner  Alexander Badong?


Alexander contributed directly to our African strategy.  Based on his experience and expertise we were able to acquire more insights about the pharmaceutical industry in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana which is his home country. He supported us to get hands-on experience which has been extremely useful to become more precise in our strategy.


He also worked  on the commercial plan and the rolling out of a training program which is called the “Angels Initiative” in the Emerging markets. He supported a workshop in our offices in Dubai to Share the best practices, set strategy, tactics and allocating resources which embraces our colleagues from all of the emerging market countries from around the world.


This initiative aims to train healthcare providers on a range of unique, tailored procedures to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely stroke treatments. In addition to optimizing the treatment window with innovative, interactive tools to help better detect and treat acute strokes with BI’s thrombolytic “Actilyse”.



How smooth was integrating Alexander in the team?


Boehringer Ingelheim promotes an inclusive culture which accepts people’s experience and capabilities. We have the willingness of giving the opportunity for other opinions to express themselves and to contribute.


I did not have to work hard with the team to integrate Alexander. Our colleagues are naturally welcoming and have been caring about him not only on professional level but on a personal level too.  From this perspective things went quite smoothly.



What would you like to say for the next “Afrika kommt!” coming to us?


Be open and bring positive energy. There are many ups and downs when you first come to Europe, especially when the winter comes and the family is far away. At that point, throw everything behind you and start working. You will have times when your job is interesting or less interesting but you should never forget about the overall perspective and the fantastic learning opportunity.


I wish you all a successful new phase of your career and I hope that we will be able to offer more opportunities for more mentors/colleagues  from the “Afrika kommt!”.




"Afrika kommt!" celebrates its ten-year anniversary in 2018. Boehringer Ingelheim and nineteen other leading German companies launched the program to offer training opportunities for young qualified experts and managers from sub-Saharan Africa. The program's fellows have several years of professional experience and have worked in their home countries partly in senior positions in finance, marketing, or engineering and natural sciences.


The core idea of "Afrika kommt!" is to provide the fellows with the chance to gain insights into the work processes and management methods of German guest companies and acquire new cultural and linguistic knowledge. This knowledge makes the participants not only experts in their home country but also important experts in economic cooperation with Germany. At the same time, guest companies benefit from the country-specific knowledge of highly motivated young managers who bring with them new approaches, insights and perspectives.

"We promote an inclusive culture which accepts people’s experience and capabilities regardless of background, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or generation, says Marc Hasson. "
Jacqueline Berlin

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