By Asmau Ahmad
The African Development Bank (AfDB), has signed an agreement worth 3.56 million dollars grant with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Mr Lamin Barrow, the Director-General, Nigeria Country Department of AfDB signed on behalf of the bank, while Dr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the president ECOWAS Commission signed on behalf of the Commission.
Brou was represented by the Commissioner of Industry and Private Sector, Mr Mamadou Traore.
Barrow, while signing the agreement on Wednesday in Abuja, said that the funds were aimed at supporting the development of pharmaceutical industry in West Africa.
“Guided by our Regional Integration Strategy Paper for West Africa 2020 to 2025, the bank has wrapped up its support to the ECOWAS region while being more responsive to the emerging priority needs of Member countries.
“Currently, the bank’s active portfolio in West Africa comprised 350 projects for a total commitment valued at 15.5 billion dollars, with Nigeria accounting for 32 per cent.
“These investments are mainly focused on building resilient infrastructure and supporting regional enterprise development to boost industrialisation.”
According to him, Africa is heavily reliant on imports, with estimated 70 per cent of pharmaceutical products sourced from imports, largely from South East Asia.
Barrow said that local vaccine production capacities meet less than one per cent of the domestic demands.
He said that the COVID-19 crisis had exposed the fragility of the national health system, as well as posed significant disruptions to health and pharmaceutical supply chains.
He said that this had given reason for urgent accelerated efforts to ensure minimum level of supply of the health products.
Barrow said that the African governments are now developing their pharmaceutical industries to ensure security of supply and enhance affordability to ease the pressure on the balance of payments.
He said that the project would advance the bank’s efforts to support harmonisation of the regulations and standards for pharmaceutical products across the continent.
The director-general said that it would increase intra-African trade and boost regional integration under the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“The project will enhance the competitiveness of the region’s pharmaceutical industry by promoting best practices in pharmaceutical products and supplies manufacturing as articulated in 2019 Abidjan declaration.
“Through the institutional support and capacity building contemplated, it will strengthen regional training institutions and laboratories to develop the skills required to support the industry’s growth in a gender-sensitive and environmentally friendly manner,” Barrow said.
He also, commended the ECOWAS president for the timely initiative and the strong partnership the bank enjoys with the commission.
Also speaking, Brou said that the long-standing cooperation between both organisations had already focused on support for industrial development.
“This convention is of vital importance from the health view, since it will be used for the production of vaccines and other medicines for the benefit of our populations.
“This great initiative is related to the improvement of the health of the populations and the development of Industry and the Private Sector in the Region,” Brou said.
He, however, said that the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation were committed to making good use of this grant in the interest of the population of the Community.