Cooperation over local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in Africa intensifies

African Union, UNAIDS, UNECA and UNIDO convene event with African finance ministers

GENEVA/ABUJA, 29 March 2014—African leaders and key multilateral organizations are strengthening and broadening support for local production of essential medicines on the continent. The Seventh Joint African Union (AU) Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is being held in Abuja, Nigeria from 25-30 March.

On the side-lines of the annual conferences, the AU, UNAIDS, UNECA and UNIDO are holding the high-level meeting Local Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals: an untapped opportunity for Inclusive and sustainable Industrial Development in Africa with African Ministers of Finance and Economic Planning. The event will highlight the opportunities for developing a high quality pharmaceutical industry in Africa, which will bring important health and economic development benefits.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé welcomed the broader support from financial and industrial leaders for the local manufacture of medicines. “The time for Africa to break its dependency on foreign imports is now. The local manufacture of pharmaceuticals in Africa is an opportunity to develop a broader manufacturing and knowledge-based economy,” he said.  

Mr Sidibé is calling for a major continental meeting before the end of 2014 on local production with ministers of finance, trade, industry, health, regional economic communities and the pharmaceutical industry.

Africa is the continent most affected by the AIDS epidemic, but remains hugely dependent on imported pharmaceutical and medical products. It is estimated that more than 80% of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) are imported from outside Africa. Local production of ARVs is vital to secure continued access to life-saving treatment for the 7.6 million people already accessing ARVs in Africa and the millions more, who still need access to treatment. Local production is important not only for the AIDS response, but for other existing and future health challenges faced by the continent.

The immense need for ARVs and other medicines presents a big market opportunity for pharmaceutical companies on the continent. Total pharmaceutical spending for the continent in 2012 was estimated at US$ 18 billion and is expected to reach US$ 45 billion by 2020.

The Director General of UNIDO, LI Yong is committed to working in partnership with key continental stakeholders, “Together, we can develop the pharmaceutical industry in Africa; this will contribute to improved public health and will help alleviate human suffering. In line with our mandate to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development, we will support efforts to enhance public health and enable populations to be increasingly economically productive through the development of viable high-quality industries in this important knowledge-intensive sector in Africa.”

African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko stressed the benefits of local production of medicines, “Local production of generic medicines promises affordability and availability of needed drugs, employment opportunities and overall public health benefits, including shortened supply chains, hence helping to reduce stock-outs, as well as enhancing the capacity of local regulatory authorities to oversee the quality standards of essential medicines for their countries.”

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA) business plan, the action plan for Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA), as well as the AU Roadmap on Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity for AIDS, TB and Malaria Response in Africa have been endorsed by African Heads of State and Governments as strategic continental frameworks for developing the pharmaceutical sector from both the public health and industrial development perspectives.

There are challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces in upgrading facilities and production practices in Africa. They include the requirement for large capital investments, the need for experts, specially trained workers, increased regulatory oversight and for regulatory harmonization at regional and continental levels to create bigger markets. However, there is growing consensus that strengthening local production of essential medicines is a priority, advancing industrial development and moving the continent towards sustainability of treatment programmes for HIV, TB and malaria; and improving access to safe and effective medicines to treat a broad range of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

African Union

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The mandate of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is to promote and accelerate inclusive and sustainable industrial development in developing countries and economies in transition. In recent years, UNIDO has assumed an enhanced role in the global development agenda by focusing its activities on poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. The Organization draws on four mutually reinforcing categories of services: technical cooperation, analytical and policy advisory services, standard setting and compliance, and a convening function for knowledge transfer and networking. UNIDO's vision is a world where economic development is inclusive and sustainable and economic progress is equitable.

Source: UNAIDS

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By African Union, UNAIDS, UNECA and UNIDO

Published: March 30, 2014, 11:27 p.m.

Last updated: March 31, 2014, 2:32 a.m.

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