Senegal and the European Commission are in a partnership to build a vaccine manufacturing plant whose initial focus will be to produce the Covid-19 vaccine for Africa.
By Pauline Kairu
While this is not new —Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria have declared their intentions to establish Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing plants — the Dakar plant is second to lay bare actual financing plans for the undertaking.
South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare Ltd, the largest drug company on the continent, announced it had begun production with $712 million funding from the US. Countries with the capacity to manufacture vaccines on the continent including South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia have spoken of intentions to commencement production of the crucial vaccine.
Construction of the new plant, which is expected to produce at least 25 million doses per month by the end of 2022, will begin later this year at the Institut Pasteur, according to the financiers of the project — several European development partners, the US and the World Bank Group. The European Commission, European Investment Bank, France, and Germany, have committed 6.75 million euros ($8.01 million) in grants to support the construction of the plant.
The agreement is part of a major package of investment in vaccine and pharmaceuticals production in Africa launched by Team Europe in May, which brings together the European Commission, EU Member States, and the European Investment Bank, and other financial institutions, in line with the EU’s Strategy with Africa and the strategy of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing.
Senegal’s Minister of the Economy, Amadou Hott, said the project was part of a vision to lay the foundations for the country’s and the continent’s pharmaceutical and medical sovereignty.
“Initial funding and expertise from Team Europe and other partners will accelerate construction of the new production plant, increase access to affordable vaccines in Africa, and enable vaccine production to rapidly respond to new pandemics,” he said.
The European Commission said it was discussing with Senegalese authorities the possibility of mobilising further financial support by the end of 2021 under the new NDICI / Global Europe instrument to support this project, as part of the €1 billion ($1.39 billion) from Team Europe initiative to boost the manufacturing of, and access to, vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in May 2021.
The Dakar-based facility is aimed at relieving Africa’s suffering during these times of vaccine scarcity while reducing its heavy reliance on vaccine imports.
According to Gavi—the international vaccine alliance —the continent imports almost 99 percent of its routine vaccines today. Africa’s reliance on global compassion in the supply of Covid-19 vaccines has left the continent in a predicament with only 1.2 percent of the entire 1.2 billion population fully vaccinated amidst rocketing numbers of infection in many of the countries on the continent.
Under Team Europe, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is supporting the manufacturing hub in Senegal with a €20 million grant while France has already granted two initial financing packages totalling €1.8 million to the Manufacturing in Africa for Disease Immunisation and Building Autonomy project at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar for feasibility studies and initial investments.