Arusha — Renewed calls were made here early this week for the East African region to mobilise resources for increased investments in drug manufacturing.
The region imports more than 70 per cent of its mostly consumed medicines due to low production capacity at home, leading to high spending on imports. "Availability of quality drugs for the region is paramount. We need more investments in the health sector," said Mr Karoma Nganyira, the coordinator of Kairuki Health and Education Network.
The region spends a staggering $5.3 billion on pharmaceuticals each year, the highest compared to other regions in Africa and projected to grow at the rate of 12.5 per cent in the next five years. He said during the official launching of the office premises for the East African Health Platform (EAHP), an advocacy forum for the sector based in Arusha, that drug production in the region could not meet the rising demand.
Mr Nganyira added that the network, which sprung up from the Dar es Salaam-based Herbert Kairuki Hospital, has established a unit responsible for pharmaceutical production.
"Of course, we have to cope with the unfavourable tax regimes but we are ploughing back what we earn from hospital and training units to create a domain in health value chain," he told The Citizen.
Mr Issa Hango from the Pharmaceutical Society of Tanzania said the universal health care advocated by the East African Community (EAC) partner states called for steady availability of drugs.
He said although the pharmaceutical manufacturers and dealers were there to make profit, availability of locally made drugs would make them affordable to the majority of people than imported ones.
Platform's (EAHP) chief executive officer Jonniah William-Mollel said the body, founded in 2012, was a "window of engagement" for health sector actors to the EAC with members drawn from an array of industry players.
These, according to her, include mainly the private sector hospitals and colleges, pharmaceutical industries and allied entities and interest groups in the broader health sector.
"The platform's formation was also based on the recognition of the importance of the public private partnership (PPPs) between the private sector, civil society, faith based organisations and government in promoting facilitative health related activities," she said.
It is also set to be a voice of the private sector organisations (PSOs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and faith-based organisations (FBOs) and other interest groups working on health issues in East Africa.
EAHP's key objectives include advocating for the development and or reform of effective and appropriate health policies and legislations for sustainable health growth and development in the region.
The platform now joins nearly a dozen non-state regional organisations based in Arusha and affiliated to the EAC, the prominent others being the East African Business Council (EABC) and the East African Law Society (EALS).
There is also the East African Employers's Organisation (EAEO), East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC), East African Local Government Association (EALGA) and a host of others.