Zimbabwe needs to make more of the medicines and other medical consumables its people use and local pharmaceutical companies should move beyond their largely retail role and invest in production, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said yesterday.
Speaking at the launch of the pharmaceutical manufacturing strategy for Zimbabwe 2021-2025, which runs under the theme; "Enhancing productivity and competitiveness of the Zimbabwe pharmaceutical industry", VP Chiwenga noted that local pharmaceutical firms produced just 12 percent of medical consumables.
That low threshold was at variance with the country's industrialisation strategy as espoused by President Mnangagwa and the Government was prepared to back local production by buying the products.
As a means to boost the scope for investment, VP Chiwenga assured the pharmaceutical businesses that the Government, through NatPharm, will buy the locally-produced consumables and will not import what can be produced locally.
The Vice President is also the Minister of Health and Child Care.
"It is a fact that without sustainable local production, the security of the economy is always under various forms of threats," he said.
"The need for increased local production in all sectors therefore cannot be overemphasised, especially in the pharmaceutical sector where local companies are producing only 12 percent of the medicines consumed locally.
"The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is going to give its full support to this sector because an unhealthy population cannot develop a country. The pharmaceutical industry is challenged that this 12 percent is unacceptable and we can no longer take it.
"What we used to do in the past in exporting to the region must come back.
"We will produce for the country and we shall export. Do not be sales agents of selling medicines manufactured by others: we need ours."
Consumer Protection Commission chairperson Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi buttressed the VP's call for local production, saying it best suits consumers.
"We are very excited at the prospect of increased local production because this has the potential to go a long way in boosting consumer rights and choice," he said.
"When medicals, like any other products are manufactured locally, it becomes easier and faster for us to take consumer misgivings back to the manufacturer and the end game for this is better and more satisfying products for the consumer."
Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Sekai Nzenza said the journey to develop the strategy started in March 2014, when the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation sent a mission to Harare to conduct consultations with Zimbabwean manufacturers in the pharmaceutical sector.
"As part of implementation of the Local Content Strategy, we are now moving towards creating the requisite linkages to stimulate local production of these products," she said.
President Mnangagwa had charged her Ministry with moving up the value chains in order to enable accelerated private-sector growth in the National Development Strategy 1 which is the successor to the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, she said.
"What this means is that we stimulate processing of finished products for domestic consumption in line with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Local Content Strategy," said Minister Nzenza.
"The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy being launched today is, therefore, part of the specific strategic interventions put in place by Government to stimulate growth of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector."
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation country representative Mr Tichaona Mushayandebvu said they are ready to provide assistance.
"We are happy that the Government of Zimbabwe led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce have taken this major leap of faith to timely launch this strategy, which I am sure will also address local production of PPEs and medicines required for Covid-19 pandemic," he said.