Rwanda — A few months after German biotechnology company BioNTech announced the introduction of the first-ever local vaccine manufacturing facility in Rwanda, experts believe the successful implementation of such initiatives across the continent will require countries to acquire know-how while encouraging potential industrial partners in the pharmaceutical industry.
Experts stress the importance of giving technology transfer first priority in order to transform Africa’s pharmaceutical sector, with a particular emphasis on expanding the continent’s capacity for producing vaccines and constructing high-quality healthcare infrastructure.
The World Health Organization (WHOmost )’s recent estimates suggest that while pharmaceutical items are produced in nations including South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt, the continent currently imports more than 80% of its pharmaceutical and medical consumables.
Experts discussed some obstacles and current opportunities to improve the health prospects of a continent that has been harmed for decades by the burden of several diseases and pandemics like COVID-19 and has a very limited capacity to produce its medicines and vaccines during the forum, which recently took place in Kigali.
The forum’s major objective was to operationalize the first African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation. Participants at the event debated how the African Union should proceed to meet its goal of having 60% of the necessary vaccinations on the continent by 2040.
Dr. Yvan Butera, the Rwandan Minister of State in the Minister of Health, emphasised the need to mobilise additional financial resources for African countries that need them most in order to procure vaccines, despite the continent importing more than 70% of all the medicines it requires, swallowing $14 billion annually.
Experts contend that coordinated initiatives to promote knowledge transfer are urgently required in light of current attempts to increase the manufacturing of critical pharmaceutical items, including vaccines, in developing nations, notably in Africa. Africa imports more than 70% of all the medications it requires, spending $14 billion yearly, according to official estimates.
In response, Professor Padmashree Gehi Sampath, Director of Global Access in Action at Harvard University and Special Advisor to the President on Pharmaceuticals and Health at the African Development Bank, told delegates that technology transfer is essential and that the new initiative will assist African nations in examining their technological requirements.
According to the senior bank official, “the majority of pharmaceutical companies in Africa use various types of technology (…) it is important to increase their capacity, which has been constrained by intellectual property rights protection and patents on technologies, know-how, manufacturing processes, and trade secrets.”
That although continent’s public health issues are widely recognised, some experts think that improving pharmaceutical businesses’ access to these technologies is essential for resolving the many issues the sector is currently facing.
The continent must overcome numerous obstacles before it can generate its medications, according to Dr. Hanan Balkhy, Deputy Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Balkhy informed delegates that “Africa suffers from the recurrent incidence of preventable diseases and epidemics, and the majority of medicines and vaccines to treat or prevent these diseases are imported from outside the continent.”
World-class professionals in pharmaceutical discovery and development, intellectual property rights, and health policy will work for the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation once it is fully created, which the bank has already approved.
In order to share IP-protected innovations, know-how, and patented processes with international and other southern pharmaceutical enterprises, the foundation also has the responsibility of acting as an open intermediary.
The co-chair of the WHO’s international negotiating council on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, Dr. Precious Matsoso, emphasised the significance of strengthening the resilience of the African health system.
The establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation by the bank, according to her, is a significant step toward overcoming the obstacles we are currently experiencing, such as health equity.
The foundation will function autonomously and raise money from a variety of stakeholders, including governments, development finance organisations, and charitable organisations, even though it is being founded under the aegis of the African Development Bank.
According to Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Initiative (CEPI), the foundation was established at the perfect time since Africa needs to learn from the pandemic’s lessons in order to strengthen the resilience of its healthcare system.
According to him, “These health care innovation ideas will aid in saving lives on the continent.”
The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation has so far decided to call Rwanda home. The foundation will have its own administrative and governing frameworks and be a common benefits entity. Additionally, it would encourage and facilitate partnerships between pharmaceutical firms from abroad and Africa.
Some experts also emphasised the necessity of giving the African pharmaceutical industry top priority in order to properly implement the new strategy.