The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed Africa’s inadequate capabilities and capacity to manufacture and supply essential drugs and vaccines.
Although pharmaceutical products are currently manufactured in countries like South Africa, Kenya, Morocco and Egypt, Africa currently imports more than 80 per cent of its pharmaceutical and medical consumables.
The shortage stalls the continent’s health sector yet there are untapped investment opportunities to streamline its efficiency while generating huge returns.
Today, Africa registers 375 plants manufacturing pharmaceutical products and vaccines for its 1.2 billion population. The World Bank’s report shows that the continent’s health sector needs an investment between US$ 25 to 30 billion to make health services more accessible.
As he attended Rwanda Global Health Summit 2021, the Resident Representative of Belgian Development Agency, Enabel in Rwanda, Dirk Deprez has emphasized that investing in Africa’s health sector is a profitable business that also contributes to the wellbeing of Africans.
“Research carried out by World Health Organization shows that 99% of vaccines used in Africa are imported. Besides, the continent also imports 94% of pharmaceuticals,” he said.
“The continent’s pharmaceuticals’ market share is valued at US$28.5 billion expected to double in 2030. Investors should seize this opportunity in the areas of drugs and vaccine manufacturing. Governments, partners and financial institutions remain committed to support them,” added Deprez.
Dr Dhiren Thakker, the founder of Med Aditus International, a nonprofit corporation that aspires to be a positive force in creating access to medicine for underserved patients in Sub-Saharan Africa stressed that increasing drugs manufacturing plants is the only solution to tackle shortages and become self-reliant instead of sticking to foreign aids and imports.
“After realizing how Africans struggle to access health services, I wanted to make an impact and abandoned my job in 2019 to create a non-profit organization with a view to address the shortage of drugs in Africa. Today, we want to build pharmaceutical plants. Preparations are underway and we are considering Rwanda and Kenya as the first countries where our operations will begin,” he said.
Dr. Thakker also revealed that they mull introducing advanced technology in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and expressed optimism that it will create new jobs.
The Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana has said prioritizing investment in health sector is among lessons learnt from COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would request the Ministry of Finance or other financial institutions to provide funding to buy drugs or build a laboratory. The proposal would be okayed but told that building roads and schools would come first. Building schools is a good idea but the health sector should be given priority because it affects different aspects of life when things go wrong,” he said.
Health experts attending Rwanda Global Health Summit have also called for collaboration between different stakeholders for the continent to bridge the gap in health services.