Rwanda: Five Things You Should Know About Rwanda's First Pharmaceutical Plant

A pharmacist searches for medication on the shelf in Kigali.
19 February 2020

Apex Biotech Ltd has become the first pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Rwanda. The factory was licensed by Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) on Tuesday, February 18.

Co-owned by Rwandan and Bangladeshi investors, the plant is located at Kigali Free Economic Zone, Gasabo District.

From the capacity of the plant to the implication of its establishment, below are five things you should know about Rwanda's first drug plant.

Production capacity

According to FDA, Apex Biotech Ltd will be manufacturing a total of 34 medicines in different dosage forms; tablets, capsules and syrups.

The plant will have an annual capacity to produce 800 million packets of tablets, 200 million capsules, 8 million bottles and 5 million Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) sachets at optimum capacity utilisation.

The above products will be used to prevent and treat a wide-range of medical conditions, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis as well as non-communicable diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, malnutrition, women's and children's health and chronic pain conditions.

The significance

In 2016, Rwanda had spent a staggering US$100 million (about Rwf85 billion) on the importation of drugs, according to Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

It is factual that the country imports all drugs; adding to Rwanda's trade deficit that was over US$196 million in May 2019.

Therefore, considering the production capacity of this firm, it could held narrow the deficit.

In addition to this, the plant is expected to provide employment to an estimated 200 Rwandans in its first two years of operations.

Launch of operations

Dr A. A. Faruque, Managing Director and Founding Partner of Apex Biotech Ltd, told The New Times that: "We are now at the final phase of machinery installment and our pilot batch of medicine will be out by the end of next month."

He added that commercial production activities will launch at the start of April.

Target market

Apex Biotech's target market is the whole African continent.

However, Faruque noted that in the first two years they will be targeting East African countries along with Mozambique, Angola and Congo-Brazzaville.

Leading the way

Apex Biotech may be the first pharmaceutical plant to start operations in Rwanda but soon more could follow suit.

According to FDA, there are several other pharmaceutical firms that have already shown interest in setting up shop in Rwanda and will be licensed once they have met all requirements.

Among these include Cooper Pharma, a Moroccan pharmaceutical player that has already laid its foundation stone in Kigali Economic Zone. It will be making essential injectable medicine used in clinics and hospitals, including sterile products like sterile antibiotics, sterile painkillers, sterile analgesics and sterile anti-fever.

It has been argued that the first phase of manufacturing, including production of antibiotics could trim Rwanda's drug import bill by 10 to 20 per cent.

Another drug plant that has shown interest in investing in Rwanda is LEAF Pharmaceuticals.

Earlier 2018, Doctor Clet Niyikiza, a Rwandan American-based scientist and businessman who runs the US-based plant, told The New Times that the plan to build a manufacturing plant for medical products was underway.

He announced that the firm had secured land in the same industrial area to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for medicines, especially newly discovered drugs for cancer.=

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