Dar es Salaam — About 40 investors - including the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), His Highness the Aga Khan - are interested in investing in the pharmaceutical sector in Tanzania.
This was stated yesterday by the Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment, Mr Charles Mwijage, who revealed that the Aga Khan plans to set up a $20 million (about Sh45 billion) pharmaceutical plant as part of his contribution to the government's industrialisation drive.
The minister made the statement during a meeting that brought together government officials and investors with a view to attracting investments into the pharmaceutical sector.
Mr Mwijage said the government was ready and determined to create a supportive environment which would ensure that the revival of the pharmaceutical industry is realised.
"I have planned a meeting with the attorney general to see how we can (help) execute the Aga Khan's initiative," he said.
According to Mr Mwijage, the government does not intend to ban the importation of pharmaceutical products, but is encouraging local sourcing, adding that this is one of the surest ways of promoting industrialisation and job creation for Tanzanians.
"With vibrant local pharmaceutical industries, the government and other clients will be able to order and receive (medicinal) drugs and equipment immediately and without undue delay."
His Highness the Aga Khan, through the Aga Khan Health Services, an agency of AKDN, has been contributed a lot to Tanzania's health sector, doing so through building and operating hospitals, as well as providing medical insurance cover and training medical personnel.
The new development comes after President John Magufuli called for more investment in Tanzania's pharmaceutical industry, stressing that the move would enable the government to save considerable sums of money in foreign exchange currently spent on importing medicines and medical equipment.
Dr Magufuli's remarks were delivered at an event to officially hand over 181 vehicles worth Sh20.75 billion to the Medical Stores Department (MSD) for distributing medicines, equipment and other medical supplies.
Mr Mwijage added that pharmaceutical industries will also help MSD to reduce expenditure in foreign currency and aid technology transfer to Tanzania.
According to statistics given by the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, the Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania imports about 94 per cent of its needs in medicines from Kenya, Uganda, India and other countries - with only six per cent being sourced locally.
"So, the meeting was meant to encourage more investors to put their money into this most promising sector, where they're assured of a reliable market as the government has the ability to procure drugs worth up to Sh500 billion from locals if they will be able to meet the set standards," Ms Mwalimu said. She explained that over Sh1 trillion is spent annually on procuring medicines.
Speaking at the event, MSD director general Laurean Bwanakunu said the new move would be a relief for the country, which sorely needs more pharmaceutical facilities, as this would, among other things, shorten the time for delivery of drugs as they are ordered.
Other new investors in the pharmaceutical sector are Alfa Industries Tanzania Limited, Mwafrica Pharmaceuticals, Prince Construction Dypercor Holding Company Limited and MIG investment limited.
Yet others who have also shown interest in the venture are Tanzania Private Sector Foundation chairman Reginald Mengi, Mr Mohamed Dewj, Mr Aziz Gulam, Kairuki Pharmaceuticals, Suma JKT, Zinga Pharmaceuticals and Biotech Limited.