Kagame praises global collaboration at BioNTech Vaccine facility inauguration in Kigali

On 19 December 2023 at 07:00

President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, alongside various Heads of State and high-ranking officials, participated in the official launch of BioNTech’s groundbreaking mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in the Kigali Special Economic Zone on December 18.

Situated in Gasabo District and spanning 300,000 square meters, the state-of-the-art facility is hailed as one of the most advanced in the world. President Kagame commended the project, emphasizing its potential to democratize vaccine technology. He expressed pride in the facility’s diverse African workforce, highlighting its capability to produce vaccines of equivalent quality to those produced elsewhere.

President Kagame acknowledged the challenges of vaccine inequity faced by Africa during the pandemic and emphasized the collective commitment of Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Ghana to spearhead vaccine manufacturing on the continent. BioNTech aims to produce mRNA-based vaccines, including potential solutions for diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.

The President extended gratitude to various partners, including the European Commission, the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), for their pivotal roles in supporting Rwanda’s pharmaceutical initiatives.

He announced a new phase of collaboration with the IFC to ensure sustained investment in Rwanda’s pharmaceutical ecosystem.

President Kagame underscored the importance of trust and cooperation in achieving the milestone, praising the swift mobilization of global support. He cited the presence of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley as an example of broader collaboration, emphasizing the need for deeper cooperation between Africa and the Caribbean.

The facility’s launch coincides with the initiative to increase Africa’s vaccine self-sufficiency, with the goal of producing 60 times more vaccine doses on the continent by 2040. President Kagame’s remarks showcased a shared commitment to global health equity and resilience in the face of future challenges.

During the inauguration event, Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s co-founder and CEO, outlined the company’s plans for the newly launched facility. He stated that construction will be completed by 2024, with local personnel training commencing, and mRNA validation testing initiated in 2025.

Initially, the facility will be equipped with two BioNTainers, one dedicated to mRNA production and the other for the formulated bulk drug product. These BioNTainers are designed to manufacture various mRNA-based vaccines tailored to the needs of African Union member states. Potential vaccines include the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, as well as investigational malaria and tuberculosis vaccines, pending regulatory approval.

Sahin emphasized the facility’s advanced capabilities, with BioNTainers capable of producing over 50 million doses annually for public supply or pandemic response, or alternatively, 10,000 doses for clinical trials. While acknowledging the work ahead, Sahin outlined the goal to operate the facility on global standards.

The quantity of BioNTech’s production will vary based on the mRNA product’s characteristics, such as dose size and composition. The company aims to bridge the accessibility gap for medicines and make them more affordable, as highlighted by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley.

Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, underscored the challenges in global vaccine production capacities and emphasized the collaborative effort between Africa and Europe to bring both vaccines and mRNA technology to the continent.

The event was attended by other leaders, including Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana. BioNTech also revealed plans to conduct clinical trials in Africa for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV vaccines in 2024, aiming to provide these vaccines to lower-income countries at a not-for-profit price upon regulatory approval.