Rwanda signs host country agreement for African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation

By Esther Muhozi
On 18 December 2023 at 01:56

On Monday, December 18, the Government of Rwanda officially entered into a host country agreement with the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF).

The APTF is a pan-African agency with the primary objective of promoting technological advancement within the medical ecosystem across the continent.

Established and approved by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Board of Directors in June 2022, the institution emerged in response to the collective request from African Union member states. It serves as a dedicated entity to enhance Africa’s access to technology for the comprehensive manufacturing of pharmaceutical products.

The genesis of the foundation can be traced back to the challenges faced by African countries in accessing vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to address this issue, the APTF was conceived, recognizing the critical need for technological solutions in the medical field.

According to data provided by the AfDB, Africa currently relies on imports for over 70 percent of its required medications, incurring an annual cost of up to $14 billion. Surprisingly, the continent manufactures only one percent of the necessary vaccines. The APTF aims to significantly bridge this gap, fostering self-sufficiency and technological empowerment in pharmaceutical production across Africa.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs of Rwanda, Dr. Vincent Biruta, highlighted the significance of the agreement and emphasized the cooperative effort to advance pharmaceutical technology in Africa and improve healthcare on the continent.

Dr. Biruta stated, "This agreement is a sign of cooperation, innovation, and technological development in medicine for the benefit of our people and the entire continent."

Furthermore, Dr. Biruta underscored the broader implications of the collaboration, stating, "It is a sign and shows the will to produce knowledge and technology that promotes innovation and research, knowledge sharing." He also acknowledged the pivotal role of technology in enhancing healthcare in Rwanda and Africa at large.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), provided insights into the establishment of the APTF, emphasizing its role in supporting the African pharmaceutical industry.

He remarked, "This center will help the pharmaceutical industry to access and share technology and engage in dialogue with intellectual property rights holders in the pharmaceutical industry to develop the pharmaceutical industry in Africa."

In addition to the AfDB’s commitment, Dr. Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany, expressed the country’s dedication to collaboration with Rwanda and Africa in the production of medicines and vaccines.

Dr. Kofler stated, "The cooperation between the German Government and APTF is based on our shared values, to ensure that the people of the African continent have a better life."

Among others, the Minister of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the importance of distributing such critical infrastructure across various African countries, particularly mentioning the opening of BionTech Africa, the first vaccine manufacturer in Rwanda, dedicated to combating Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Dr. Biruta stressed the need for capacity building and noted that APTF should play a pivotal role in this regard.

The signing of a cooperation agreement between APTF and the European Investment Bank was also highlighted, indicating the bank’s commitment to providing technical assistance and facilitating funding for innovative healthcare initiatives. This collaborative effort aligns with the shared goal of enhancing health services and medication availability in Africa.

In a meeting between President Kagame and Adesina in September 2023, discussions centered on AfDB’s assistance in developing the pharmaceutical sector in Africa through the establishment of APTF’s headquarters in Rwanda. This meeting emphasized the ongoing commitment to cooperation and development in the pharmaceutical field.

Minister Biruta signing the host agreement for African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation.
The agreement was signed ahead of the launch of vaccine manufacturing facility in Kigali.