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African Development Bank supports healthy continent

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African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina.
African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina.

The African Development Bank (ADB) is establishing the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, to enhance Africa’s access to the technologies that underpin the manufacture of medicines, vaccines and other pharmaceutical products.

The ADB, which funds projects that promote economic and social progress across the continent, says the foundation will prioritise technologies, products and processes focused primarily on diseases that are widely prevalent in Africa, including current and future pandemics.

It will also strengthen local pharmaceutical companies, to enable them to engage in local production initiatives with “systematic technology learning and technology upgrading” at the plant level.

Africa imports more than 70% of all the medicines it needs, costing $14 billion per year, and the foundation is expected be a major boost to the health prospects of a continent through massive savings.

The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will work with the African Union Commission, European Union Commission, World Health Organisation (WHO), Medicines Patent Pool and World Trade Organisation (WTO), among others, on its efforts to uplift the pharmaceutical sector on the continent.

“This is a great development for Africa,” says ADB Group president Dr Akinwumi Adesina.

“Africa must have a health defence system, which must include three major areas: revamping Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, and building Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure. Africa can no longer outsource the healthcare security of its 1.3 billion citizens to the benevolence of others.”

Adesina says the foundation will also uplift the ADB’s commitment to spend at least $3 billion over the next 10 years, to support the pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing sector under its Vision 2030 Pharmaceutical Action Plan.

For the WTO and WHO, the decision to establish the foundation was overdue, as it will underpin the growth of the pharmaceutical sector across Africa.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, comments: “Establishing the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, by the African Development Bank, is a game-changer on accelerating the access of African pharmaceutical companies to IP-protected technologies and know-how in Africa.”

Likewise, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO director-general, says: “The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is innovative thinking and action by the African Development Bank. It provides part of the infrastructure needed to assure an emergent pharmaceutical industry in Africa.”

Furthermore, the principles behind the foundation say African pharmaceutical companies do not have the scouting and negotiation capacity, or bandwidth to engage with global pharmaceutical companies, hence the need to establish such an institution.

The ADB believes a flourishing pharmaceutical sector will boost access to quality medicines, which will improve healthcare and consequently propel economic growth.

“Even with the decision of the trade-related intellectual property rights waiver at the WTO, millions are dying – and will most likely continue to die – from lack of vaccines and effective protection. The foundation provides a practical solution and will help to tilt the access to proprietary technologies, knowledge, know-how and processes in favour of Africa,” notes Adesina.

When fully-established, the foundation “will be staffed with world-class experts on pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights and health policy; acting as a transparent intermediator advancing and brokering the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global and other southern pharmaceutical companies to share IP-protected technologies, know-how and patented processes”, says the ADB.

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8 Aug
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