KENYA—Moderna, the US biotechnology giant, has announced a temporary halt to its plans to construct a $500 million mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya.

This decision comes as the company assesses the future demand for mRNA vaccines across the African continent.

Initially, Moderna had signed a deal with the Kenyan government in 2022 to invest billions of shillings in a facility capable of producing up to 500 million vaccine shots annually.

The Kenyan government had offered incentives, including tax breaks, to support the project, which aimed to establish Kenya as a pharmaceutical and vaccines hub in the region.

However, Moderna’s decision to pause the project follows delays in acquiring land for the facility in a special economic zone at Tatu City in Kiambu County.

Additionally, the reduced demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Africa since the peak of the pandemic has raised concerns about the economic viability of the planned factory in Kenya.

Moderna has not received any vaccine orders for Africa since 2022 and has faced cancellations of previous orders, resulting in significant financial losses exceeding US$1 billion.

Despite these challenges, Moderna remains committed to ensuring equitable access to its COVID-19 vaccine and addressing emerging demands from African nations through its global manufacturing network.

Moreover, the company is actively engaged in the development of public health vaccines, particularly for diseases prevalent in Africa such as HIV and malaria.

While these efforts are still in the early stages of development, Moderna sees them as part of its broader commitment to addressing global health challenges with its innovative mRNA technology.

Given the evolving healthcare needs and vaccine demand in Africa, Moderna believes it is prudent to pause its efforts to build the mRNA manufacturing facility in Kenya.

This strategic decision will allow the company to better align its infrastructure investments with the changing landscape of healthcare requirements in the region.

The suspension of the project is a setback for President William Ruto, who had sought to attract foreign firms to drive Kenya’s manufacturing agenda.

In 2023, the Moderna deal constituted a significant portion of Kenya’s US$861 million in foreign direct investments (FDI).

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