Apex Biotech Ltd, a pharmaceutical manufacturing firm co-owned by Rwandans and Bangladeshi investors, is expected to open within the next nine months, officials say.
Stakeholders are optimistic that at a time when non-communicable diseases continue to claim more lives than any other disease group, an additional pharmaceutical firm into the Rwandan market will go a long way in ensuring timely detection, prevention, and treatment and consequently reduce resultant mortality rate.
The plant, whose groundbreaking ceremony was held at Plot D15 in the Kigali Special Economic Zone on Wednesday, will manufacture generic pharmaceutical formulations in all major therapeutics in a variety of dosage forms, including tablets, capsules, powder for suspension (PFS), liquid syrups and oral rehydration therapy.
This project, worth $18 million (Rwf15bn) which will be built in two phases, involves the establishment of a state-of-the-art GMP-compliant pharmaceutical manufacturing plant with an annual capacity of 800 million pcs of tablets, 200 million capsules, 8 million bottles and 5 million ORT sachets at optimum capacity utilization.
Herbeton Madari, the Executive Director of Apex Biotech Rwanda, said that the firm will advance science for life in the country and provide "high-quality and affordable" medicine that compliments Rwanda's life expectancy mark and boosting economic growth.
Madari's comments were echoed by Namzul Ahasan Sarker, the Chairman of Apex Biotech Ltd.
"Our products and technologies will be used to prevent and treat a wide range of medical conditions, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB, Hepatitis as well as non-communicable diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, malnutrition, women's and children's health and chronic pain conditions," Namzul said.
He added that, "with good governance and leadership and business friendly environment as well as growing population, Rwanda was identified as an ideal location for us to set up our first manufacturing facility in Africa. It clearly cements our commitment to supporting a robust health care sector here in Rwanda".
Biotech becomes the second pharmaceutical to break ground for the construction of production plant after Cooper Pharma, a Moroccan pharmaceutical which started construction of its facility last December.
According to the Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, this will go a long way in reducing foreign exchange Rwanda invests in importing medicines, create jobs as well as improve the quality of healthcare in Rwanda.
According to the minister, non-communicable diseases in Rwanda have often been synonymous with referrals to India, Belgium, US and sometimes as near as Kenya among other places with patients seeking further specialised medical treatment.
In the 2015/2016 Financial Year, Rwanda spent Rwf74.2 billion to import medicines from foreign manufacturers.
"This firm also plans to build a high-tech hospital. In the long run, we hope that this factory will address gaps in the health sector by providing us with more locally-based specialists in cardiology, neurosurgery and other NCDs. It will definitely reduce the number of patients we send abroad for medical treatment and the amount of money the country loses on medical imports," Gashumba noted.
Meanwhile, Apex intends to construct and equip two new health posts during the construction phase of their factory, Namzul said.
He added that by the end of the first year of their operation in Rwanda, the company will have set up 8 health posts across the country and all the health posts will be supplied with essential medicines produced by the firm at a free cost.
Apex Biotech Ltd will, at a later stage, embark on a super specialty hospital project, which will offer a wide range of advanced healthcare services like cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, urology, organ and bone marrow transplant, cancer treatment, knee replacement surgery to local and regional population.
"As of now, my team is in the process of vetting a handful of locations in and around Kigali city. While full-scale details are yet to be finalised, the city can expect the hospital chain to be situated over four to five hectares of land, staffed with eminent physicians and skilled nurses from Bangladesh and India, who will join the team of local doctors and nurses." Namzul said.
About 150 Rwandans are expected to be employed once the factory starts running, according to Madari.