The need for self-determination, sustainable home-grown development, and intervention effectiveness among African countries and across the global south has led to strong calls for the development and strengthening of South-South Cooperation (SSC).
As concerted efforts are being made to localise pharma manufacturing and build a self-reliant pharmaceutical industry in Africa, there is a growing acknowledgement that real advancement will require strong action-oriented and sustainable South-South cooperation and other partnerships between governments, international and multilateral organisations, and private sector engagement that promote country ownership and African health priorities.
Opportunities for SSC among African countries include local manufacturing and production of medical products and essential medicines, harmonisation of regulatory processes, disease prevention and control, laboratory strengthening and diagnostics, and health workforce development, among others.
Thus, SSCs that leverage the strengths of each player present a viable and unique approach towards implementing innovative solutions that tackle the existing challenges in Africa’s pharmaceutical industry. There is therefore a need for African governments and all concerned stakeholders to support the establishment of systematic approaches for the use of SSC to achieve sustainable and transformational change within Africa’s pharma sector.
SSC, a unique partnership model
SSC refers to a process whereby two or more developing countries pursue their individual and/or shared national capacity development objectives through exchanges of knowledge, skills, resources, and technical know-how and through regional and interregional collective actions, including partnerships involving governments, regional organisations, civil society, academia, and the private sector, for their individual and/or mutual benefit within and across regions.
While North-South Cooperation remains the flagship for health development in Africa, it is often fraught with inappropriate technology, a lack of understanding of the developing countries’ context, and a lack of equality in partnership, thus calling for increasing South-South Cooperation among countries of the global south. African countries, and indeed countries in the Global South, are at different stages of development.
However, similarities exist in their socioeconomic, cultural, and public health contexts. Across the region, many different approaches have been tried over the years, with varying degrees of success. Hence, a vast body of knowledge exists on what works and what does not, based on local experiences. To take full advantage of this, collaboration across the global south must improve.
Opportunities for SSC in Africa’s pharmaceutical industry: Bloom Public Health Model
SSC holds significant benefits for the pharmaceutical sector in Africa, as it can build strong regional networks for sharing practical experiences and knowledge and supporting capacity building among African countries. A good example is the Bloom Public Health-led Indonesia-Nigeria Cooperation, aimed at strengthening capacity building of Nigeria’s local pharmaceutical manufacturers.
As part of its strategic interventions for transforming Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, Bloom Public Health, in partnership with Nigeria’s National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) in a World Bank-funded initiative, established the WHO Prequalification Programme for Nigerian pharmaceutical manufacturers.
This WHO prequalification programme, which is one of the most significant pharmaceutical interventions in Nigeria in recent times, is supporting local pharmaceutical manufacturers in Nigeria towards the attainment of current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) and WHO prequalification for their products, with the aim of improving availability and access to quality medicines in the country.
However, as a thought-leader in Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, Bloom Public Health understands the significance of south-south cooperation in achieving this goal, as peer-to-peer learning from a similar country is essential to sharing practical experiences and knowledge and supporting the capacity building of local pharmaceutical manufacturers in Nigeria. In light of this, Bloom Public Health, in collaboration with the Nigerian Government, has partnered with the Government of Indonesia to organise a WHO prequalification learning agenda trip to Indonesia.
This Indonesia-Nigeria cooperation will significantly contribute towards tackling one of the most critical issues that has limited Nigeria’s pharmaceutical sector, which is the lack of WHO-prequalified products. The WHO prequalification learning agenda trip to Indonesia will provide the opportunity for Nigerian private pharmaceutical manufacturers to interact with their Indonesian counterparts that passed through the WHO PQ process; engage the Indonesian government agencies that supported the process; study the ecosystem that enabled the process sustainably; and enable Nigerian private sector players to see other opportunities that can lead to business partnerships and deals going forward. Part of the highlights of this cooperation is the Indonesia-Nigeria Health Business Forum, which is aimed at having a sincere dialogue that can strengthen the ties between both countries.
Another SSC model is the Cameroon-Pakistan cooperation facilitated by Bloom Public Health. In 2022, Bloom Public Health brokered a strategic meeting between the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) in Pakistan and the National Drug Quality Control and Valuation Laboratory (LANACOME) in Cameroon. Building on this, an MOU between DRAP, Pakistan, and LANACOME, Cameroon that will allow for long-term exchange of technology, knowledge, and skills for the strengthening of Cameroon’s public health sector has been finalized.
South-South cooperation provides a unique opportunity to strengthen national ownership and self-reliance and harness existing capacities to address peculiar problems in Africa’s public health sector. African governments therefore need to fully explore the potentials of SSC and the opportunities it provides to leapfrog towards a self-reliant healthcare system on the continent.