The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank has endorsed the establishment of the African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology, an innovative institution, which will significantly improve Africa's access to the technologies that underpin the manufacture of medicines, vaccines and other pharmaceuticals.
“This is a big step forward for Africa,” said African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina. Africa must equip itself with a health defense system, based on three main areas: the revival of the African pharmaceutical industry, the strengthening of African vaccine manufacturing capacities and the establishment of health care infrastructures. quality in Africa. »
At the African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa in February 2022, African leaders called on the African Development Bank to help establish this African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation. Arguing in their view, Akinwumi Adesina then underlined: “Africa can no longer outsource the health security of its 1.3 billion citizens and entrust it to the benevolence of others. »
With this bold initiative, the African Development Bank wanted to honor its commitments.
This decision opens up new health prospects for Africa which, for decades, has suffered the burden of several diseases and pandemics such as Covid-19, but whose capacity to produce its own medicines and vaccines is very limited. Africa imports more than 70% of all the medicines it needs, paying an annual bill of $14 billion.
Global efforts to rapidly scale up the manufacturing of essential pharmaceuticals, such as vaccines in developing countries – particularly in Africa – to expand access to them have proven to be hampered by the protection of intellectual property rights. and patents on technologies, know-how, manufacturing processes and trade secrets.
African pharma companies lack the scouting and negotiating capacity, nor the leeway to scrap with global pharma companies. It is clear that they have been marginalized and left behind in sophisticated global pharmaceutical innovations. Recently, 35 companies signed a license with the American Merck to produce Nirmatrelvir, a drug against Covid-19. None were African.
To date, Africa does not have any organization on the ground capable of supporting the practical implementation of Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on non-exclusive or exclusive licenses of technologies, know-how and proprietary processes.
A glaring gap that will therefore be filled by the African Foundation for Pharmaceutical Technology. Because once established, it will be made up of world-class experts in pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights and health policy. Acting as a transparent intermediary, it will be responsible for promoting and negotiating the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with multinational pharmaceutical companies and other countries of the South, in order to share technologies, know-how and patented processes protected by the intellectual property.
“Even with the World Trade Organization decision on the TRIPS waiver, millions of people are dying – and most likely will continue to die – due to lack of vaccines and effective protection,” President Adesina said. The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation offers a practical solution and will help shift access to hitherto exclusive technology, knowledge, know-how and processes in favor of Africa.”
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both welcomed and praised the African Development Bank’s decision.
“The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is an innovative thinking and action of the African Development Bank,” acknowledged WTO Director General Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It provides some of the infrastructure needed for a pharmaceutical industry to emerge in Africa.”
“The creation of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation by the African Development Bank is a game-changer, added WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, by accelerating access for African pharmaceutical companies to protected technologies and know-how. by intellectual property in Africa. »
Priority will be given to technologies, products and processes for diseases and pandemics prevalent in Africa, current and future. It also aims to strengthen human and professional skills in the sector, the research and development ecosystem, and to improve the production capacities of factories and the regulatory quality of products to meet the standards of the World Organization. of health.
While the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is established under the auspices of the African Development Bank, it will operate independently, raising funds from various stakeholders – governments, development finance institutions and philanthropic organizations.
The Foundation endorses the commitment of the African Development Bank to dedicate at least $3 billion over the next 10 years to the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and vaccines on the continent, as part of its pharmaceutical action plan “ Vision 2030”. The Foundation’s areas of action may also benefit other investments currently deployed in pharmaceutical production in Africa.
The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will be based in Rwanda. A joint-benefit entity, the Foundation will have its own governance and operating structures. It will encourage and conclude alliances between foreign and African pharmaceutical companies.
Other objectives of the Foundation: to strengthen African pharmaceutical companies so that they can engage in local production projects, in a process of systematic learning of technology and technological upgrading of production sites.
Together with African governments and centers of excellence in research and development, the Foundation will work to strengthen the pharmaceutical and vaccine innovation ecosystem in Africa and to develop the skills necessary for the development of the sector.
It will enable closer coordination of the various existing drug and vaccine manufacturing initiatives at the regional level, taking advantage of the synergies and partnerships engaged at the pan-African level.
The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation will work closely with the African Union Commission, European Union Commission, World Health Organization, Medicines Patent Pool, World Trade Organization , philanthropic organizations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and institutions. Public and private sectors from developed and developing countries will also be strongly encouraged to collaborate.
Source African Development Bank