RWANDA— Rwanda is set to host the headquarters of the newly established African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF), a venture launched by the African Development Bank (AfDB) aimed at enhancing the continent’s access to technology for manufacturing medicines and vaccines.

The announcement of this initiative took place during the African Development Bank Group’s 58th Annual Meetings, where stakeholders warmly welcomed the endeavor.

Through this upcoming venture, the AfDB intends to strengthen Africa’s capabilities in producing drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics across the entire value chain, thereby contributing to the development of the continent’s underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame will lead the APTF Advisory Council, which includes other members such as Moussa Faki, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of World Health Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of World Trade Organization, and Adesina of AfDB, among others.

The APTF Advisory Council will work together to address various issues and challenges in the region, leveraging their expertise and influence to promote development and cooperation.

This institution will actively promote technology access and transfer, facilitate the technological upgrading of Africa’s pharmaceutical sector, and implement several dedicated programs aimed at enhancing technology absorption in both the private and public sectors.

The foundation will provide a range of solutions to the challenges faced by African pharmaceutical companies, particularly addressing weak human and institutional capacities, limited capability to absorb new technologies, and lack of access to essential active pharmaceutical ingredients for drugs or antigens for vaccines.

To ensure Africa’s health security, Akinwumi Adesina, President of AfDB, said that investing in domestic pharmaceutical production will help increase employment, improve the trade balance, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure access to safe, quality, and affordable drugs.

“Africa needs to proactively build its capacity for future pandemics, enhancing production facilities and involvement in research and development. Africa needs to establish itself as an equal player, both regionally and globally,” stated Akinwumi Adesina.

APTF is a strong show of the continent’s effort to change the medical ecosystem from being donor-reliant, change with continent-derived initiatives and solutions.

Another initiative in the continent pharmaceutical landscape is the African Union’s African Medicine Agency (AMA) which is a specialized agency intended to facilitate the harmonization of medical products regulation across the continent to improve access to quality, safe, and efficacious medical products.

Over 30 vaccine manufacturing initiatives in Africa

More than 30 new vaccine manufacturing initiatives are now already underway in Africa, and momentum is gathering to make this expansion possible.

An example in the sphere of development is BioNTech efforts to set up vaccine manufacturing plants in Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa, aimed at manufacturing and promoting scalable mRNA vaccines in Africa.

In March of 2023, Rwanda BioNTech received the first consignment of BioNTainers facilities to put in high into gear vaccine development and manufacturing that is expected to begin in 2024.

According to the Africa CDC, there are currently five African countries that manufacture vaccines at different levels.

Some are more focused on fill and finish, while only one manufactures vaccines from end-to-end, specifically the Institute Pasteur in Senegal, which produces the yellow fever vaccine, the only WHO-prequalified vaccine from the continent.

Other countries, such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Cameroon, have been manufacturing animal vaccines for years and also aspire to manufacture human vaccines.

The Africa CDC states that the continent, with a population of 1.2 billion people and 55 Member States, still imports 99% of its vaccines and consumes 25% of the global vaccine supply.

According to a 2021 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa, most African countries receive vaccines through UNICEF, supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Less than 10 countries are self-sufficient in terms of vaccine procurement. As a result, the vaccine market in Africa is heavily reliant on UNICEF, which supplies over 1.5 billion doses.

Consequently, establishing sustainable vaccine industries in Africa faces enormous challenges, as it ideally requires advance purchasing support from African governments.

WHO Africa reveals that the biggest impediment is the structure of vaccine procurement in Africa.

Without the commitment and support to purchase vaccines manufactured in Africa, building a sustainable industry capable of producing vaccine doses at scale will remain a difficult challenge.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.