BusinessDay

AfDB to cut $14bn annual import of medicine into Africa

The board of directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB), has approved the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation for Africa’s access to technologies.

According to the bank, this is for the manufacture of medicines, vaccines and other pharmaceutical products.

In a statement by the bank’s communication and external relations department on Monday, the AfDB president, Akinwumi Adesina described the development as a leap for Africa.

He said, with Africa importing more than 70 percent of all the medicines it needs and consuming $14 billion per year, the establishment of the foundation was a major development.

Adesina said “Global efforts to rapidly expand manufacturing of essential pharmaceutical products including vaccines in developing countries, particularly in Africa, to assure greater access, had been hampered.

“This has been hampered by intellectual property rights protection and patents on technological know-how, manufacturing processes and trade secrets.

“African pharmaceutical companies do not have the scouting and negotiation capacity, and bandwidth to engage with global pharmaceutical companies.

“They have been marginalised and left behind in complex global pharmaceutical innovations.”

He decried that of 35 companies which recently signed a licence with America’s Merck to produce Nirmatrelvir, a COVID-19 drug, none was African.

According to him, no institution exists in Africa to support the practical implementation of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) on nonexclusive or exclusive licencing of proprietary technologies, know-how and processes.

He expressed optimism that the Foundation would fill existing gaps when fully established.

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“It will be staffed with world-class experts on pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights, and health policy.

“It will act as a transparent intermediator advancing and brokering the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global and other Southern pharmaceutical companies,” the statement said.

It quoted Adesina as saying, “Africa must have a health defence system, which must include three major areas.

“Revamping Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, and building Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure.”

The statement said that African leaders had called on AfDB to facilitate the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.

It said that the AfDB president, who presented the case for the institution to the African Union at the Summit in Addis Ababa in February, said it was a bold initiative.

“Africa can no longer outsource the healthcare security of its 1.3 billion citizens to the benevolence of others.

“With this bold initiative, the African Development Bank has made good on that commitment.

“The decision is a major boost to the health prospects of a continent.

“A continent that has been battered for decades by the burden of several diseases and pandemics such as COVID-19, but with very limited capacity to produce its own medicines and vaccines.”

The statement noted that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), welcomed the bank’s decision to establish the foundation.

It quoted the director-general of the WTO Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as saying, “the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is innovative thinking and action by the African Development Bank.

“It provides part of the infrastructure needed to assure an emergent pharmaceutical industry in Africa.”

The statement also quoted the director-general of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus as saying “establishing the Foundation was a game-changer”.

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