African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has urged critical stakeholders on the continent to support the bank’s Africa Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF).
The AfDB president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, disclosed this during a side event of the bank’s 2023 Annual Meetings in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on Monday said the foundation was an initiative of the bank to support pharmaceutical sector on the continent to manufacture medicines and vaccines, especially during pandemics.
According to him, the lack of capacity to manufacture basic pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, puts the health security of the continent at risk.
The AfDB boss said Africa manufactured only one per cent of its vaccines needs, although, some efforts had been made to move some vaccines manufacturing capacity to Africa.
“An example is the m-RNA technology. Some countries such as Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, among others have made progress, these manufacturing capacities are essentially fill and finish platforms.
“African indigenous pharmaceutical companies are very weak and are hampered by weak human and institutional capacities.
“They lack absorptive capacity for new technologies and access to basic active pharmaceutical ingredients for drugs or antigens for vaccines.
“They are unable to meet global standards and would require investments to reach WHO level 4 standards to manufacture medicines and vaccines that can be purchased by WHO or the Global Fund,’’ he said.
Adesina said the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for Africa and had highlighted the urgency for governments, particularly in Africa, to invest in domestic pharmaceutical innovation and production.
He said: “ We should move beyond the limitations of market failures and focus on rectifying systemic capability deficiencies.
“Investing in domestic pharmaceutical production and innovation will help increase employment, improve the trade balance, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure access to safe, quality, and affordable drugs.
“It will enhance Africa’s health security.’’
According to Adesina, Africa needs to also proactively build its capacity for future pandemics by enhancing production facilities and involvement in research and development.
“ Africa needs to establish itself as an equal player, both regionally and globally.
“Effectively adapting and innovating during crises like COVID-19 relies on cooperation between governments, private companies, and regulators.
“And companies require financial, infrastructural, strategic, and regulatory support.’’
Adesina, however, said all these elements could not thrive without technology transfer and knowledge sharing for capacity building and diversification within the pharmaceutical value chain.
According to him, these informed the creation of the APTF, which has been approved by the African Union Heads of State and Government.
He said following the approval of the Foundation by the AfDB Board of Directors, work started immediately to get it established.
“The Bank has set up the African Foundation in Kigali, with the generous support of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and the Rwandan Government.
“The Foundation is a pledge that our continent will have access to the technologies it needs to produce its own medicines, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical products.”
While stating some benefits of the APTF, Adesina said it also connects technology suppliers with companies, foster innovation in regional pharmaceuticals, and provide expertise, capacity-building, and financing.
He said its vision was to build a quality healthcare defence system that included significant indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity.
He said the Eminent Advisory Council of the APTF includes President Kagame as Chairman, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki and Director-General of World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus.
“Others include the Director-General of World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the AfDB president among others.
“I would like to ask for more partners to join us in supporting the foundation. Together, through the Foundation, we will support Africa to produce its own medicines and vaccines.
“Together, we will support Africa to access proprietary technologies and know-how.
“Together, we will build Africa’s pharmaceutical research and development ecosystem with universities and the private sector in and outside Africa.
“The health security of Africa depends on it,’’ the AfDB president said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the foundation is the first on the continent dedicated to systematic promotion and transformation of the overall technology environment in which Africa pharmaceutical companies operate. (NAN)