AfDB invests over US$6 million to develop the pharmaceutical sector in Southern and Eastern Africa

AFRICA — The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund, the concessional lending arm of the African Development Bank Group has approved a US$6.63 million grant to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to develop the pharmaceutical sector in the sub-region.

The project, which will be implemented over three years (2023-2025), is institutional support to develop the region’s pharmaceutical industry.

In particular, it will build the capacity of pharmaceutical regulatory bodies, product quality control and management systems, and research and development institutions.

The aim is to achieve the manufacture and marketing of safe, quality pharmaceutical products, for Covid-19 and other diseases.

The project will support the sub-regional body in implementing continental strategies on pharmaceutical manufacturing and assist it in streamlining and harmonizing drug registration processes, as well as ensuring access to essential medical products and technologies.

The project will also create an information platform for pharmaceutical manufacturers, importers, and exporters.

Additionally, the project will directly benefit public institutions responsible for the pharmaceutical industry’s development, such as national drug regulatory authorities, quality control laboratories, regional pharmacy training providers, universities, and research centers.

The aim is to empower them to support the pharmaceutical sector so that they can produce safe essential medicines locally for the needs of the population, especially women and children,” said Leila Mokaddem, the African Development Bank’s Director General for Southern Africa.

Most countries within the region have a weak and underdeveloped pharmaceutical industry. The region is heavily dependent on imports for most of its medical supplies. Furthermore, due to the low local pharmaceutical production, there is a high prevalence of counterfeit pharmaceutical products in circulation, which has serious consequences for the welfare of the region’s people,” she added.

While the project is intended to directly benefit the African Development Fund (ADF)-eligible countries of COMESA, other Bank Group member countries will be allowed to participate in project activities and events, but at a cost.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa is a regional economic community comprising 21 countries: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, and Ethiopia.

Other member countries include Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Kenya is currently the largest producer of pharmaceutical products in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, supplying about 50% of the region’s market.

Earlier on AfDB selected Rwanda to host the new African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, an African Development Bank (AfDB) initiative that will increase the continent’s access to technology for manufacturing medicines and vaccines.

According to the AfDB, the foundation is critical in assisting African pharmaceutical companies in better scouting for technologies and negotiating with global pharma to facilitate local production of fundamental health products that consume up to US$14 billion of Africa’s annual income.

Currently, the continent is home to approximately 375 pharmaceutical firms, which produce less than 25% of the required products annually, forcing the countries to import significantly to meet demand.

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