Health experts across African countries have projected the continent to produce 60 per cent of its vaccines domestically by 2040.
They also said that Africa could increase its overall capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing in general on the continent.
They made the projection on the sidelines of the 2nd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) in the Rwandan capital city Kigali, which ended on Thursday.
Dr Precious Matsoso, the Co-chair of the international negotiating body of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, said that there was no equitable vaccine distribution during the COVID-19 crisis.
Matsoso also said that there was an issue of timely availability of vaccine, particularly in Africa, noting equity had been a problem.
He said: “One of the solutions, according to the UN agency, it is to promote technology transfer for African pharmaceutical industries to produce their own drugs and vaccines.
“Some countries have already established pharmaceutical industries, while others inked a deal with their European counterparts to establish vaccine factories.
“So far, Senegal, Rwanda, Ghana and South Africa have partnered with BionTech to host the manufacturing facilities of Pfizer vaccine.
“This is through an initiative coordinated by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African centres for disease control (CDCs) to boost the production capacity of the continent in developing medicines and drugs.”
However, Prof. Padmashree Gehl Sampath, the Special Advisor to the President of African Development Bank on Pharmaceutical and Health, said that financial investments into specific projects might hinder the expectation.
He also said that this coupled with technical assistance on a product-by-product basis alone would not be enough to reach the objectives of AU commission and CDC,
Padmashree, also Director of Global Access in Action at Harvard University, told delegates that African firms have difficulties in accessing technologies, transacting from these technologies and also in searching for technologies when they start embarking in the production.
“What they actually need is to look for available options out there to know how to choose what they really need and how they can partner with other firms; and how they can licence what they have.
“Without technology you can’t do pharmaceutical manufacturing; the African firms are stacked at the lowest level of the value chain,” she said.
According to the bank’s senior official, one of the major issues facing the African pharmaceutical industry is the technology, and it is challenging to upgrade to the plant level without the technological absorption capacity.
“This is not an issue for firms alone, the partnership with universities, research centres, skills are needed to achieve this goal,” she also said.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF).
It has the mandate to act as a transparent intermediator advancing and brokering the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global and other Southern pharmaceutical companies.
The bank will also share IP-protected technologies, know-how and patented processes with the companies.
Ms Birgit Pickel, the Director General for Africa at the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, pointed out that facilitating more partnership with African counterparts in pharmaceutical industries.
According to her, it will not only benefit vaccines manufacturing, but also the whole pharmaceutical industry value chain production.
Also Prof. Frederick Abbott, Eduard Ball Eminent Scholar Professor, Florida State University, U.S., told delegates that the sustainable funding for the initiative was critical especially during the technology transfer.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the international conference on public health in Africa is an annual event that provides a unique platform for African researchers, policy makers and stakeholders to come together and share perspectives and research findings in public health. (NAN)
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