The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted Africa’s vulnerability due to its dependence on imports for most vaccines, drugs and other health commodity needs. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that Africa imports around 94% of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs from outside the continent at an annual cost of $ 16 billion.
High-level representatives of governments, development finance institutions and United Nations agencies, as well as representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia, gathered virtually today on the sidelines of the 76th Assembly United Nations General Committee to explore innovative solutions to the systemic obstacles hampering development of the continent’s health industries and discuss ways to strengthen the African pharmaceutical industry.
The event was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), AfroChampions, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the Office of the United Nations Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) and the African Import-Export Bank (Afreximbank). The event took place within the framework of Africa’s Third Industrial Development Decade (IDDA III).
In his opening remarks, LI Yong, Director General of UNIDO, said: “The African Continental Free Trade Area offers opportunities for the development of a continental health industry, while we must continue to harness the strengths of the various stakeholders and establish partnerships. “
In a video message, Amina J. Mohammed, UN Under-Secretary-General, underscored the importance of IDDA III and noted that inclusive and sustainable industrial development is essential to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Development sustainable in Africa.
In his video message, Gerd Müller, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, pointed out that three billion COVID-19 vaccines have been produced worldwide and must be distributed fairly. He further mentioned that “Germany is supporting COVAX and the COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator (ACT), but is also investing in cooperation with countries like South Africa, Senegal and Ghana to establish their own vaccine production facilities “.
Noting that investment is crucial for promoting local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals on the continent, Vera Songwe, Deputy Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ECA, recognized the lack of adequate funding in Africa as one of the persistent challenges. from the continent.
Cristina Duarte, Deputy Secretary General and Special Adviser for Africa to the Secretary General of the United Nations, said the coronavirus offers an opportunity for Africa to change its paradigm, from heavy dependence on imports to self-sufficiency.
Ambassador Albert M. Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, noted that the IDDA III framework is crucial in helping Africa respond to its challenges. pharmaceutical needs and to meet the targets set in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA).
On behalf of Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the AfDB, Dr Abdu Mukhtar said that the support of development finance institutions as well as the private sector is crucial to support the industrial and sustainable development of Africa and that countries must be supported to expand their fiscal space during the ongoing pandemic.
Speaking on behalf of Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD, Jennifer Chiriga noted that development partners should actively promote human resource capacity and knowledge for the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector which requires highly staffed. qualified.
AfroChampions co-chair Paulo Gomez noted that public-private partnerships must be strengthened to promote structural transformation on the continent.
Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General for International Partnerships at the European Commission, noted that the European Union’s € 1 billion Team Europe initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and technologies health sector in Africa, will help create an enabling environment for local vaccine manufacture in the continent and tackle barriers on both the supply and demand side.
Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organization, stressed that the pandemic provides an opportunity to reflect on the persistent challenges Africa continues to face in trying to improve the health of its population. . “Governments and stakeholders must therefore resolve to strengthen national health systems and ensure that vaccines are readily available to the population,” he said.
In her contribution to the first session, the President of Ethiopia, Her Excellency Sahle-Work Zewde underscored her government’s support for the implementation of the Decade and reaffirmed the crucial role of local manufacturing in its development efforts.
Speaking on behalf of His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, His Excellency Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development said that “to rebuild the health sector and boosting the economy requires strong partnerships such as the PCP initiative. , to lock in investments and FDI that will allow economies to rebound to pre-pandemic levels ”.
His Excellency Zely Randriamanantany, Minister of Public Health, spoke of the importance of the continent’s population growth and the need to strengthen the skills and industrial knowledge of the burgeoning young population, in his statement on behalf of His Excellency Andry Rajoelina, President of Madagascar.
All speakers agreed that market consolidation, strong regulatory oversight, investments in the pharmaceutical sector and new technologies (4IRs) are of the utmost importance to unlock Africa’s full manufacturing potential.
The event closed with a signing ceremony of the Joint Declaration for the Implementation of the Kenya Self-Initiation Program for Country Partnership between the CEO of UNIDO and President Kenyatta.
In conclusion, participants recognized the need to accelerate and support local production of pharmaceuticals and the health industry in Africa, as well as the importance of IDDA III and other frameworks such as AfCFTA. , and their potential impact in stimulating the manufacture and trade of pharmaceuticals. on the continent. They also called for inclusive and solution-oriented approaches to the challenges presented by COVID-19.