African experts and officials urge boosted pharmaceutical manufacturing


African officials and experts have called for enhanced efforts to boost pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent to ensure access to vital health commodities and be better prepared for possible pandemics.

This came during the latest Africa Investment Summit on Health, held on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly, which urged ensuring quality, safe and internationally recognized pharmaceutical products to prepare for future pandemics, while creating jobs for young Africans, according to a statement from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Friday.

“We are losing too many children to diseases due to lack of vaccines, which could be manufactured in Africa,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe.

Convened by the ECA, the African Business Coalition for Health and the National Institutes of Health, participants at the summit have discussed strategies of boosting the access to vital health commodities and supplies in Africa, leveraging the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the African Medicines Agency.

Africa’s medicines and medical equipment imports rose from 4.2 billion U.S. dollars in 1998 to 20 billion dollars in 2018, indicating that Africa’s private sector can and should be a part of Africa’s health security solution, Songwe said.

He said that since the launch of AfCFTA, Africa’s public and private sectors have been gradually grasping the opportunities for economic prosperity, which in turn creates enormous business opportunities in the continent’s healthcare market.

Africa’s ability demonstrated at the peak of COVID-19 in terms of procurement, creating instruments, institutions, and innovative financing to solve the biggest challenge of getting COVID-19 vaccines, shows that joint efforts could help the continent improve its health outcomes, Songwe said.

Monique Msanzabaganwa, deputy chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, said COVID-19 is both a challenge and a learning opportunity, urging African countries to fulfill their commitment to allocating 15 percent of their budgets to health.

In 2012, AU members endorsed the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa to push for self-reliance for access to essential, safe and quality and affordable pharmaceuticals, recalled Ibrahim Mayaki, chief executive officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Challenges such as access to affordable capital for manufacturers, access to technology and know-how, access to market, policy regulations, and investment in intellectual property must first be addressed, he said.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control, called for new funding models that are coordinated and aligned with the continental aspirations on local vaccine manufacturing. Enditem

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