Home NewsAfrica AfDB approves initiative to transform Africa’s pharmaceutical industry

AfDB approves initiative to transform Africa’s pharmaceutical industry

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved the establishment of the African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology, a pioneering new institution that will significantly improve Africa’s access to the technologies that underpin the manufacture of medicines vaccines and other pharmaceutical products.

African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said: “This is a breakthrough for Africa. Africa must have a health defence system, which must include three main areas: renewing Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, developing Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, and building Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure.”

During the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in February 2022, the continent’s leaders called on the African Development Bank to facilitate the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.

Adesina, who presented the institution’s case to the African Union, said: “Africa can no longer outsource the security of health care for its 1.3 billion citizens to the benevolence of others.” With this bold initiative, the African Development Bank has delivered on that commitment.

The decision is a huge boost to the health prospects of a continent that has been battered for decades by the burden of various diseases and pandemics like Covid19, but with severely limited capacity to produce its own medicines and vaccines. Africa imports more than 70 per cent of all the medicines it needs, spending $14 billion a year.

Global efforts to rapidly expand the manufacturing of essential pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in developing countries, particularly in Africa, to ensure greater access, have been hampered by the protection of intellectual property rights and patents on technologies, know-how, manufacturing processes and trade secrets.

African pharmaceutical companies do not have the scouting and bargaining power, nor the bandwidth to engage with global pharmaceutical companies.

They have been marginalized and left behind in complex global pharmaceutical innovations. Recently, 35 companies signed a license with Merck in the United States to produce nirmatrelvir, a drug against covid-19. None of them were African.

There is no institution on the ground in Africa to support the practical implementation of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on non-exclusive or exclusive licensing of proprietary technologies, knowledge and processes.

The African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology will fill this important and obvious gap.

When fully established, it will have world-class experts in pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights and health policy; acting as a transparent broker that promotes and negotiates the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global pharmaceutical companies and others from the South to share proprietary IP-protected technologies, knowledge and processes.

Adesina said: “Even with the TRIPS Waiver decision at the World Trade Organization (WTO), millions are dying, and most likely will continue to die, for lack of vaccines and effective protection.

“The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation provides a practical solution and will help tilt access to proprietary technologies, knowledge, techniques and processes in favour of Africa.”

The WTO and the WHO, respectively, welcomed and praised the African Development Bank’s decision to establish the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.

World Trade Organization Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is innovative thinking and action from the African Development Bank. It provides some of the infrastructure needed to secure an emerging pharmaceutical industry in Africa.”

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said: “The establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, by the African Development Bank, is a game changer in accelerating access for pharmaceutical companies’ African companies to technologies and knowledge protected by IP. like in Africa.

The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will prioritize technologies, products and processes focused primarily on diseases that are widely prevalent in Africa, including current and future pandemics.

It will also develop human and professional skills, the research and development ecosystem, and support the improvement of manufacturing plant capabilities and regulatory quality to meet WHO standards.

While the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is established under the auspices of the African Development Bank, it will operate independently and raise funds from various stakeholders including governments, development finance institutions, philanthropic organizations, among others.

The Foundation will drive the AfDB’s commitment to spend at least $3 billion over the next 10 years to support the pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing sector under its Vision 2030 Pharmaceutical Action Plan.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment