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Africa must build manufacturing, scientific capacity with a sense of urgency - Kagame

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 6 December 2021 at 10:59

President Paul Kagame has said that Africa’s challenges during COVID-19 pandemic in securing timely access to test, therapeutics and vaccines have served as a constant reminder that Africans need to be doing things for themselves.

Kagame made the observation on Monday 6th December 2021 as he opened the two-day Meeting on Partnerships for Vaccine Manufacturing in Africa taking place in Kigali.

The meeting aimed at reviewing the ‘progress made so far on implementing the partnerships for vaccine manufacturing in Africa’, was convened by the African Union, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD).

The event follows the inaugural meeting held in April 2021 where participants were updated on the progress made so on the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing in Africa.

Major outcomes of the high-level Summit include a commitment to developing a detailed “Framework for Action” with key milestones on the way to reaching 60% local manufacturing of Africa’s routine vaccine needs by 2040, the launch of the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) and the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) between the African Union and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Afreximbank and the Africa Finance Corporation.

As he addressed participants today, Kagame highlighted that a significant progress has been made since the inaugural meeting of partnerships for African vaccine manufacturing took place eight months ago.

He commended the African CDC, led by Dr. John Nkengasong for taking the lead in the historic initiative with the support of the African Union Commission.

The President also extolled other partners for their ‘decisive contribution to advancing this agenda noting that the joint effort ‘has helped to prevent Africa from being yet again an after-thought’.

Despite achieved milestone, Kagame said that a lot of work still needs to be done.

“Africa’s challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic in securing timely access to test, therapeutics and vaccines have served as a constant reminder that we need to be doing things for ourselves. This is not a new problem. But a crisis of public health is literary a matter of life and death. Africa must therefore build manufacturing and scientific capacity with a sense of urgency,” he said.

The President highlighted that the continent needs to work with partners to meet its aspirations.

“We can and must do something new and different. And when we need to do this for ourselves, that does not mean working alone. Vaccine research and production is fundamentally a global enterprise. We therefore have to work in partnership with each other as Africa and also with key partners around the world. That requires not only funding but also and even more importantly trust, “he said.

Kagame also said that entry into force of the new African Medicines Agency is one of the most important developments since the last meeting and commended the African Union’s special envoy Dr. Michel Sidibé for his role in accelerating the process.

The Treaty for the Establishment of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) entered into force as of 5th November 2021.

AMA aspires to enhance capacity of State Parties and AU recognized Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to regulate medical products in order to improve access to quality, safe and efficacious medical products on the continent.

President Kagame has explained that it is essential ‘to maintain the momentum and fully establish this agency without which, Africa cannot independently authorize and regulate medicines and vaccines’.

He emphasized that producing medicines and vaccines on the continent, presents an opportunity for trade and investment.

Recently, Rwanda and Senegal concluded agreements with BioNTech to begin the end to end production of the mRNA-based vaccines as early as next year.

Kagame said that Africans will benefit a lot from the local production where vaccine doses will be distributed within the continent, an addition to technology and knowledge transfer to African engineers and companies.

Through its mRNA Tech transfer in South Africa, the World Health Organization is working with South African companies to build a valuable knowledge base for the African continent.

The Head of State said that this commitment and other initiatives underway in various countries are evidence of a strong momentum which must be supported and sustained.

“Because of this terrible pandemic, an opportunity has been created to fundamentally change the pharmaceutical production landscape on our continent. This window will not stay open forever. Now is the time to act, decisively and quickly together. As Africa and also globally,” he noted.

President Paul Kagame has said that a significant progress has been made since the inaugural meeting of partnerships for African vaccine manufacturing took place eight months ago.

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