AfDB launches African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology

The African Development Bank Group has officially presented its new initiative to which the African Union is affiliated, The African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology.

The foundation, hosted by the Rwandan government in Kigali, is expected to be operational in early 2023.

The aim is to strengthen Africa’s capacity to produce medicines, vaccines, to provide diagnostic and therapeutic treatments throughout the value chain, thus helping it to develop its pharmaceutical sector.

The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, which was approved by the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank in June 2022, is expected to expand Africa’s access to manufacturing technologies for the full range of pharmaceutical products, focusing on building supply chains and expanding access to basic technologies for different types.

The Institute will also act as a transparent intermediary, responsible for promoting and negotiating the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector on the international stage to improve access to patented technologies, know-how and related industrial processes through licensing and other mechanisms, based – or not – on the market.

Africa imports more than 70% of the medicine it needs, at an annual cost of $14 billion, according to the African Development Bank.

Changing the game to allow African countries to develop their own pharmaceutical production capacity responds to public health, strategic and economic logics.

“This new initiative is a solution because most countries [africains] still having problems receiving [les médicaments] on time,” said Rwandan Health Minister Yvan Butera.

Solomon Quaynor, vice-president of the African Development Bank Group in charge of the private sector, infrastructure and industrialization, said that Covid-19 had revealed the shortcomings of the African health system: “The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of international health systems and the shortcomings in the production of essential medicines on the continent,” he said before adding: “The African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology is an institutional innovation that will dramatically improve Africa’s access to the technologies that support the manufacture of medicines. »

Introducing the fund, Padmashree Gehl Sampath, Special Adviser to the President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, on Medicines and Health Infrastructure, stressed that it was designed to help African countries meet the technological gaps in sustainable local production.

“African pharmaceutical companies face three specific obstacles: access to technology and related know-how for production, mobilization of domestic resources for technological upgrading and lack of opportunities for horizontal and vertical diversification of products,” she explained. Many technological risks must be covered to build the African pharmaceutical sector, especially by abandoning the product-by-product approach that puts African companies at risk. »

Co-Chair of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Negotiating Body on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response, Precious Matsoso, shared her thoughts on the importance of technological challenges in pandemic preparedness. future pandemics. The establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation would “provide the necessary support to remove technological barriers to equal access”, she said.

Richard Hatchett, executive director of the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Initiative, stressed that the establishment of the fund is “timely” given the Covid-19 experience, said the initiative “will help save lives on the continent”.

The WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Prevention, the South Center in Geneva and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development have expressed their strong interest in collaborating with the Foundation over the coming year.

Carlos Correa, executive director of the South Center in Geneva, said how important it is for Africa to have its own framework to develop its pharmaceutical industry: “Intellectual property rights provide monopolies, which give owners the right to control technology sharing. It is important to build the capacity to facilitate timely technology transfer to Africa. »

Panelists highlighted the need for partnerships between African pharmaceutical companies and their counterparts on other continents, such as Europe.

Brigit Pickel, Director General for Africa at the German Federal Ministry of Health, went on to say that Covid-19 has brought attention back to how to improve local manufacturing of essential health products. Germany welcomes the establishment of the fund and its vital role in solving problems related to technology and market development, she added.

Fredrick Abbott, Distinguished Professor at Edward Ball American State University in Florida (USA) outlined how to truly create a successful pharmaceutical industry: “The focus must be on the management of intellectual property in a broader sense. […] There is also a need to focus on promoting joint ventures, such as those that have facilitated the creation of many Covid-19 vaccines. »

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