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Showcasing the AFCFTA-Anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative: Lessons and Experiences

15 July, 2022
Showcasing the AFCFTA-Anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative: Lessons and Experiences

High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Side Event

Addis Ababa, 15 July 2022 - The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)’s AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative held a virtual side event on the margins of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development: Showcasing the AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative: lessons and experiences on July 6 2022 at 07 :30 – 09 :00 EST.

The virtual meeting, hosted by the ECA was attended by Hon. Michel Sidibe, Africa Medicines Agency Special Envoy, Prof. Senait Fisseha, Susan Buffet Foundation Director of Global Programs and Senior Advisor to Dr. Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director General, Dr. Gerald Macharia Representative of the Kenyan Ministry of Health,  Dr. Marcel Bahizi of the Rwanda FDA, Mr. Fasika Mekete Senior Advisor to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health,  Ms. Chidinma Ifepe of Africa Medicines Supply Platform (AMSP), Dr. Chimwemwe Chamdimba of AUDA-NEPAD, Mr. Bramuel Mwalo of Xetova, Mr. Nihal Shah of Biodeal Laboratories, Ltd., representatives of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Afreximbank, World Health Organistion (WHO), UNAIDS, UNICEF, other UN family entities as well as representatives of 10 pilot member countries amongst many other distinguished delegates.

 The meeting was an opportunity to showcase the AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative and its journey, progress and experiences in the promotion of the manufacturing and pooled procurement of essential medications focused on reproductive, maternal and child health in and for the African Continent. The Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA, Mr. Stephen Karingi opened the meeting by welcoming all participants and inviting Hon. Michel Sidibe to take the floor.

Hon. Sidibe in his opening remarks said that the Continent’s “dependence on externally manufactured goods was problematic as access to COVID 19 vaccines starkly reminded Africans. He said that the local manufacture of pharmaceuticals on the continent, was therefore no longer an option. “The continent only produces 3% of the medicines consumed by its people. Pharmaceutical supply chains have multiple intermediaries.”  He said that these intermediaries contributed to drugs being sold in  Africa being the most expensive in the world and that it is very important, in addition to note that Africa has the highest prevalence of sub-standard and counterfeit medicines, with some countries are reaching as much as 30%. Hon. Sidibe said, “these challenges have been largely attributed to weak or absent drug regulatory systems, unclear policies and incomplete or inconsistent legal and regulatory frameworks in many cases. So, acting at this level is therefore critically important.” 

Hon. Sidibe went on to say that the African Pharmaceutical sector was expected to grow from US$19 Billion in 2012 to US$66 Billion in 2022. He went on to say that the health and wellness sector in Africa would be worth US$259 Billion by 2030 and this could potentially create up to 16 million jobs.  The African Continental Free Trade Area would integrate 1.3 billion people and potentially 2.2 billion people by 2050.  Sidibe said that therefore, regulation would be essential to protect African citizens from sub-standard and falsified medicines. He said this meeting was key, timely and topical and that leveraging the AfCFTA, and the AMA would help build Africa’s research and development capacity.

He concluded by saying that “having a robust continental oversite will also increase global confidence in African products, it will certainly help us to enhance the reputation and growth of African pharmaceutical manufacturers, enabling to become net exporters.”

Prof. Senait Fisseha, Director of Global Programs at the Susan Buffet Foundation and Senior Advisor to Dr. Tedros Adhanom, WHO DG, in her contribution, said “for me it is really a matter of social justice and human rights that we are working to focus our support on three critical areas that can benefit vulnerable populations, of course with a focus on women and girls.”  She further said that they were focused on “developing local manufacturing, fast tracking regional procurement and boosting regulatory processes for essential lifesaving medicine…. We know that Africa has the capacity and expertise to manufacture safe and effective medicines. With an equally significant political will across the continent, we now have the opportunity to build Africa’s resilience by successfully translating this political will and capacity into action. Local production of pharmaceuticals will not just enable us to expand access to medicine in the short term, it will also equip us to deal with future health emergencies and crises, and frankly establish Africa’s health security.” Prof Fisseha said that she believed that the AfCFTA was key to “unleashing the potential of local manufacturing to bring enormous socio-economic gains for the continent.” She went on to say that we were meeting at a time where the initiative had already begun work in the 10 pilot countries and was on track but would require the support of all stakeholders to succeed and sustain it. She concluded by stating that it was critical to get the regulatory aspect right.

Dr. Gerald Macharia, representing the Kenyan Ministry of Health also made some remarks, commending the AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative, commending the projects journey todate, and the value of its work for the Continent at large.

Ms. Jane Karonga, the AfCFTA-anchored Pharma Initiative’s Team Lead took the audience through the Initiative’s journey from the start, stating that the rationale for the initiative was to “address the mismatch between supply and demand in Africa”, stating that “medicines consume 45 – 60 % of national healthcare budgets on the continent, largely made up of imported products.”  Ms. Karonga went on to say that the Initiative was “adopting and implementing a Centralized Pooled Procurement Mechanism”, which involved, “creating an information-sharing database, providing technical support to manufacturers, monitoring regulatory affairs, and the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in the 10 selected pilot countries.”

Dr. Maraki Fikre, Healthcare Management Expert to the Pharma Initiative, moderated a panel discussion entitled, “An AfCFTA-anchored Pharma Initiative for Private Sector Engagement for inclusive and sustainable financing for development.” Dr. Marcel Bahizi, of the Rwanda FDA and Mr. Fasika Mekete, Senior Advisor to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health both expressed their nations’ current priorities and commitments to participation in the Initiative. They each highlighted their country’s current activities as they pertain to the 3-pillar intervention of the Initiative and the importance of continuing to work on the key enablers of local manufacturing, procurement models as well as regulatory harmonization.

There were two submissions from Private sector entities that were partnering with or benefitting from the Initiative, these were, Xetova and Biodeal Laboratories Ltd. both from Kenya. Their interventions were able to clarify the various areas of support the Initiative can provide at country level, including better data collection and evidence to support and showcase outcomes of the Initiative as well as the importance of availing financing mechanisms to manufacturers to help them scale up and meet quality requirements for the continent.

Ms. Chidinma Ifepe from the African Medicines Supply Platform (AMSP) made a brief presentation on their pooled procurement digital platform which had been set up in 2020 for the purposes of COVID related commodities and vaccines. Ms. Ifepe said that this platform is now moving towards integration of other essential medicines such as the maternal and child health commodities of the Pharma Initiative. 

This was followed by a submission from Dr. Chimwemwe Chamdimba from AUDA-NEPAD who stated that the overall aims of the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization (AMRH) were “to improve regulatory capacity and provide an enabling environment for R&D, and the local production of pharmaceutical products which meet internationally acceptable standards of quality, safety & efficacy.” Dr. Chamdimba touched on the Africa Medicines Agency (AMA), saying that they “aimed at facilitating sustained continental-wide harmonization of technical standards and processes; provide scientific and regulatory advice in support of the development of the local pharma industry among others.”   She said that the work of AMA would lead to the removal of “unnecessary technical barriers to trade in pharmaceuticals in support of the AfCFTA.”

 Dr. Chamdimba listed some of the lessons they had learned to support the AfCFTA-anchored Pharma Initiative, these included “the importance of the linkage between manufacturing, regulation and pooled procurement, minimal duplication of effort, alignment and utilizing existing structures.” She said that building national capacity was key to successful collaboration across regions and the continent, but that all stakeholders would need to be invested in “networking, information sharing and leveraging on available capacities – REC platforms & cross-REC learning and anchor National Regulatory Agencies at the regional level to facilitate learning through twining.” She mentioned further that legislation was an anchor for countries to participate in harmonization, citing the AU Model law domestication, advocacy for reforms and sustainable financing of regulatory systems as being of paramount importance.

The meeting was closed by Mr. Francis Ikome, Chief of Section, Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA who thanked those in attendance for an enriching and engaging meeting which illustrated that the Initiative was timely and very pertinent and whose key objectives had been met.  He further thanked all participants as well as the team behind the organization of the meeting on behalf of the leadership of the ECA.


For Further information contact:
Communications Section
AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa