Ramaphosa calls for African hubs to produce vaccines

15 April 2021

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the development of a vibrant and innovative medical supplies manufacturing capability to meet the continent’s health needs.

Ramaphosa told the High-Level Virtual Conference on Africa’s Vaccine Manufacturing for Health Security that a system of regional hubs would be an ideal way to serve the continent.

He said Africa had demonstrated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic that it has substantial capabilities, resources and skills.

“Our task now is to harness all these capabilities, and to draw on the experience of the past year to build a vibrant and innovative African medical supplies manufacturing capability that meets the health needs of the continent’s people,” he said.

“This means that in the medium term, we need to expand existing capabilities into regional hubs that serve the continent as a whole.”

Ramaphosa proposed forging sustainable partnerships across the developed and developing world to harness technological expertise, financing and investment.

Meanwhile, a report also recommended regional production hubs and pooled procurement as ways of helping Africa move towards greater vaccine self-sufficiency.

The report, by David Walwyn, professor of technology management at the University of Pretoria, and co-authors, said more than 20 countries in Africa had no pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity and many parts of the continent imported 95% of pharmaceuticals.

The report suggested direct grants, periods of market exclusivity, international technology transfer and redirecting of international development aid to stimulate domestic production.

“Typically, these products are technology and capital intensive. They require highly skilled personnel and reliable supply chains for key raw materials and specialised equipment,” said the report.

The report said high initial investment in people and infrastructure required sufficient volume to justify the risk.

“The absence of this security, even in the continent’s larger markets, such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, limits expansion of this critical sector,” it said.

The report urged African governments to use public procurement to provide longer-term supply contracts with strong guarantees.

It also called on donor agencies to reconsider procurement strategies to favour local manufacturers.

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