SENEGAL – Construction of a new plant in Senegal to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines is expected to begin later this year, and the facility should produce 25 million doses per month by the end of 2022.

The Institut Pasteur in Senegal’s capital Dakar, which will run the plant, and various European development partners said the facility would help Africa reduce its dependence on vaccine imports, which currently account for 99% of its needs.

Africa currently imports 99% of its vaccines. But with today’s agreement, Team Europe is helping Senegal move one important step closer to producing its own vaccines and protecting Africans from COVID-19 and other diseases. And more will come. This is just the first part of a much broader Team Europe initiative to support the production of medicines and vaccines across Africa,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

European countries and institutions, including the European Commission, European Investment Bank, France and Germany, committed 6.75 million euros (US$8.01 million) in grants to support construction of the plant during a ceremony in Dakar.

The investment comes on top of previous commitments by Germany and France and is part of a 1 billion-euro (US$1.19 billion) initiative announced by the European Commission in May to bolster access to vaccines and other medicines in Africa.

Reliance on outside manufacturing has proved costly during the pandemic. Only a little more than 1% of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated, and many African countries are now seeing fresh spikes in cases.

There are currently fewer than 10 African manufacturers that produce vaccines in Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare produces the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Senegal’s Institut Pasteur is the only facility in Africa currently producing a vaccine, a yellow fever shot, that is pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, which requires manufacturers to meet strict international standards.

President of the Republic of Senegal, His Excellency Macky Sall, welcomed the support of Team Europe and other partners, including the United States and the World Bank Group, in the construction in Senegal of a facility for manufacturing vaccines against COVID-19 and other endemic diseases.

Announcing this contract, Amadou Hott, Senegal’s Minister of the Economy said yhis project will lay the foundations for the country’s, and the continent’s, pharmaceutical and medical sovereignty.

“Scaling up local production of COVID-19 vaccines is crucial to tackle the pandemic. As part of Team Europe, the European Investment Bank welcomes today’s agreement that will unlock large scale investment at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar to manufacture vaccines in Senegal and improve health across Africa,” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.

Team Europe will support the Government of Senegal visionary ambition to enable licensed COVID-19 vaccine production at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar.

The initiative will not only support Africa’s autonomy in the production of life-saving vaccines, but also serve as an important building block in Senegal’s emergent health industrial ecosystem.