The African Development Bank (AfDB) has promised to drive growth in the pharmaceutical industry with the approval of the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF).
The board of directors of the bank, following a recommendation made in its February 2022 African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa, decided that the establishment of a foundation like the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF) will transform the face of medicine, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical manufacturing in the continent.
It was agreed that the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation would help in improving the quality of technologies, products, and processes used in dealing with diseases the continent struggles to deal with on a daily basis.
Another benefit of the foundation will be to build the strength of the continent to handle future pandemics and a system that promotes a high level of professionalism so that our manufacturing plant capacities can meet World Health Organization standards.
The bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina presented a road map that this development aims to achieve.
“This is a great development for Africa.” 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,” he said.
Adesina held that Africa’s healthcare security will be guaranteed as cash outflow from the continent to other countries to produce drugs, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical products will be addressed in the short term.
“Africa would localise and internalise the process of building the pharmaceutical industry instead of depending on foreign companies and countries,” he said.
“Africa can no longer outsource the healthcare security of its 1.3 billion citizens to the benevolence of others.” He added, stressing the importance this foundation will bring to the continent.”
Analysts hope that the decision to establish this foundation will boost the health prospects of a continent that has found it difficult to handle the challenges of dealing with several diseases and pandemics such as COVID-19, Monkey-pox, Lassa Fever, and a few others.
According to the bank, the continent imports more than 70 percent of all medicines, at a cost of up to $14 billion per year.
African pharmaceutical companies have, up till now, suffered neglect in the international community due to an absence of any strategic partnership that could have helped grow the industry on the continent. No companies on the continent were part of the signing agreement with America’s Merck to produce Nirmatrelvir, a Covid-19 drug.
When fully established, it will be staffed with world-class experts on pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights, and health policy, acting as a transparent intermediator, advancing and brokering the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global and other Southern pharmaceutical companies to share IP-protected technologies, know-how, and patented processes.
Adesina said, “Even with the decision of the TRIPS Waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO), millions are dying—and will most likely continue to die—from lack of vaccines and effective protection. The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation provides a practical solution and will help to tilt the access to proprietary technologies, knowledge, know-how, and processes in favour of Africa. ”
This news was welcomed by both the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization, who hailed the decision by the bank to establish the foundation.
“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,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organization.
While Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation, said, “Establishing the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, by the African Development Bank, is a game changer on accelerating the access of African pharmaceutical companies to IP-protected technologies and know-how in Africa.”