Africa: Call for African Medical Supplies Manufacturing Facility

President Cyril Ramaphosa joins healthcare workers in receiving the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccination (file photo).

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the continent needs to build a vibrant and innovative African medical supplies manufacturing capability that meets the health needs of the continent's people.

Addressing the High-Level Virtual Conference on Africa's Vaccine Manufacturing for Health Security on Monday, the President said throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa has demonstrated that it has extensive and substantial capabilities, resources and skills to address the challenges given rise to by the pandemic.

"Our task now is to harness all these capabilities, and to draw on the experience of the past year to build a vibrant and innovative African medical supplies manufacturing capability that meets the health needs of the continent's people. This means that in the medium term, we need to expand existing capabilities into regional hubs that serve the continent as a whole," President Ramaphosa said.

The President noted initiatives like the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, which has pioneered new ways of ensuring access to vital personal protective equipment, as well as diagnostics and therapeutics.

"Through our own continental institutions, we have mobilised substantial resources to support the health response to this pandemic. Importantly, leaders of the continent have demonstrated the political will to act decisively in the face of the threat to health and well-being," he said.

The President said to build a medical supplies manufacturing capability, Africa needs to harness its own continental capabilities and identify opportunities for collaboration across several countries of the continent.

"We also need to forge sustainable partnerships with entities in both the developed world and the developing world. Partners in various countries could offer technological expertise, financing and investment. Countries such as India and Brazil could provide guidance on how they developed their own generic pharmaceutical industries.

"Such collaboration should form the basis of a longer-term strategy to develop a pharmaceutical industry that can achieve continental scale - taking advantage of the large, growing and increasingly integrated African market," he said.

President Ramaphosa said the private sector will be essential to the success of this effort.

"In addition to domestic government spending and regional financial commitments, the public and private sector will need to invest in such initiatives. We will also need capacity-building in the form of skills and knowledge transfer to ensure we can sustain local manufacturing," the President said.

In ensuring an effective response to the current pandemic, the continent must strengthen its ability to both respond to future health emergencies and to achieve health security.

"The vision of a strong African medical supplies and vaccine manufacturing capability that responds effectively to the health needs of the African people is bold and ambitious, but is achievable. From the experience of the past year, I am confident that Africa is closer now than ever before to the fulfilment of this vision," the President said.

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