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How Cameroon plans to conquer the ECCAS and Nigerian pharmaceutical markets

29 January, 2021
How Cameroon plans to conquer the ECCAS and Nigerian pharmaceutical markets

Yaounde, 29 January 2021 (ECA) With technical support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), public and private sector representatives have consolidated a comprehensive framework to render Cameroon’s local pharmaceutical sector better structured, resilient, productive, competitive and viable in the short term.

Within this new dispensation, the Government of Cameroon hopes to steer local actors to capture a more sizeable part of the circa the FCFA 200 billion (US$ 369 million) local market for pharmaceuticals and make inroads into the ECCAS subregional and Nigerian markets.

Currently, local production meets only 5% of the national needs, as Cameroon imports over 90% of its needed pharmaceuticals.

A worrying degree of pharmaceutical products used in the country – estimated at up to 40% of regular products on the market – comes from contraband and illicit supply chains.

These points emerged during a two-day review of a strategy to restructure the sector and create a pharmaceuticals’ inter-professional corps, held in Yaounde from 27 to 28 January 2020.

Cameroon’s Minister of Industry – Gabriel Dodo Ndoke used the occasion to pay tribute to ECA’s subregional Office for Central Africa for its decisive role in overhauling the country’s Industrial Development Masterplan (PDI, in French) in which pharmaceutical production is a main anchorage.

He noted that this support contributes to the 2020-2030 National Development Strategy (SND 2030, in French), focused on the structural transformation of the Cameroonian economy “with special attention given to the development of the pharmaceutical sector, among others.”

ECA and Cameroonian experts agree that three main issues are responsible for stunting the growth of the pharmaceutical sector, which structural weakness made the country, like its African counterparts, most vulnerable to the double-jeopardy of the COVID-19 on public health the economy.  These are: the lack of competitiveness, reputational issues and limited levels of partnership.

Jean Luc Mastaki,  a senior economist who heads the Economic Diversification and Policy Reforms section of ECA’s Central Africa Office, told the press that these challenges can be surmounted by providing access to and reducing the cost of pharmaceutical inputs and building sufficient skills to power the sector (in the case of competitiveness); weeding out contraband (to restore the reputational damage caused to local products); and building solid partnerships to attract foreign direct investment, pursue innovative financing mechanisms, review counterproductive policies, and acquire technology.

ECA is already brokering a possible partnership between the Government of Cameroon and the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), which has demonstrated expertise in supporting and co-developing special economic zones and other industrial clusters in Africa.

Antonio Pedro, Director of ECA’s Office for Central Africa noted that “such special economic zones dedicated to the pharmaceutical sector will set in motion an ecosystem for a competitive and sustainable industry.”

“In a clustering approach borne out of such an arrangement, the pharmaceutical industry will more easily identify the potential of the local pharmacopoeia - upstream,  and that of distribution - downstream, reinforcing the links between actors of these stages of the value chain and those  involved in production,” he said.

Meanwhile the following six major workstreams have been created in the restructuring of Cameroon’s pharmaceutical industry and setting up its inter-professional corps:  

  • Improving local pharmaceutical production capacity
  • Improving access to financing
  • Providing tax, customs and other economic incentives
  • Improving market access
  • Strengthening the capacity building of various sector actors and support bodies.

As Cameroon pursues this Short-Term Plan of Action to develop its pharmaceutical productivity, ECA is encouraging the country to take advantage of its Africa Pharma initiative commissioned in November 2019 in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), WHO, UNAIDS and other partners to improve Africa’s collective bargain for the timely and cost-effective procurement of medicines from elsewhere, while developing the continent’s own capacity to quickly produce its own medicines and strengthen its quality standards. 

The Initiative seeks to reverse the dependency of Africa on outside medical supplies, in the long run. ECA estimates that the continent spends about US$16billion annually to import about 94% of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs.


Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826