African governments urged to embrace technology transfer for pharmaceutical manufacturing
Technology access for pharmaceutical manufacturing has been identified as a major issue to be addressed by African Governments on the sidelines of the second international conference on public health in Africa which took place from 13 -15 December 15 in the Rwandan capital city Kigali
Dr. Precious Matsoso, the co-chair of the international negotiating body of the World Health Organization (WHO) on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response says that during the covid-19 crisis there was no equitable vaccine distribution and also timely availability particularly in Africa equity has been a problem.
Dr. Precious Matsoso
One of the solutions according to the UN agency is to promote technology transfer for African pharmaceutical industries to produce their own drugs and vaccines. Some countries have already established pharmaceutical industries while others inked a deal with their European counterparts to establish vaccine factories.
So far Senegal, Rwanda, Ghana and South Africa have partnered with BionTech to host the manufacturing facilities of Pfizer vaccine through an initiative coordinated by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African centres for disease control (CDCs) to boost the production capacity of the continent in developing medicines and drugs.
According to officials projections, the African continent will be able to ensure that 60 percent of vaccines are produced domestically by 2040, and to increase the overall capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing in general on the continent
Financial investments into specific projects coupled with technical assistance on a product-by-product basis alone will not be enough to reach the objectives of AU commission and CDC, according to Prof. Padmashree Gehl Sampath, the special advisor to the president of African Development bank on pharmaceutical and health, and Director of Global access in action at Harvard University.
Prof. Padmashree told delegates that African firms have difficulties in accessing technologies, transacting from these technologies and also in searching for technologies when they start embarking in the production; ‘what they actually need is to look for available options out there to know how to choose what they really need and how they can partner with other firms; and how they can licence what they have.’ she said.
"Without technology you can't do pharmaceutical manufacturing; the African firms are stacked at the lowest level of the value chain," she said
According to the bank's senior official, one of the major issues facing the African pharmaceutical industry is the technology, and it is challenging to upgrade to the plant level without the technological absorption capacity. "This is not an issue for firms alone, the partnership with universities, research centres, skills are needed to achieve this goal," she said.
The African development bank has approved the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF) with the mandate to act 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.
Ms Birgit Pickel, the Director General for Africa at the Germany Federal ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development pointed out that facilitating more partnership with African counterparts in pharmaceutical industries will not only benefit vaccines manufacturing but also the whole pharmaceutical industry value chain production.
Prof. Frederick Abbott, Eduard Ball Eminent scholar professor, Florida state university, USA told delegates that the sustainable funding for the initiative is critical especially during the technology transfer.
The international conference on public health in Africa is an annual event that provides a unique platform for african researchers, policy makers and stakeholders to come together and share perspectives and research findings in public health while ushering in a new era of strengthened scientific collaboration and innovation across the continent; this was the first to connect people in person because the first was in lockdown.
Author: Francine Andrew SARO/ Fezaa.com