Last month UNIDO and the African Union Commission (AUC) met to discuss the implementation of the African Union's Pharmaceutical manufacturing plan for Africa – which is designed to increase the number of drugs made in Africa over the next five years.
Much of the debate during the ten day workshop centred on the need to support quality production through the promotion of international good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards, strengthening regulatory capacity and knowledge sharing with Governments.
However, while the main focus is on working with local manufacturers to develop a drug making industry in Africa, there is also a role for international pharmaceutical firms according to UNIDO project leader Juergen Reinhardt.
“International businesses can support pharma industry development in Africa in many ways,” Reinhardt told in-Pharmatechnologist.com, adding that “Options include direct investment, preferably in the form of joint ventures, voluntary licensing and other kinds of tech transfer agreements, supporting human capital development, product licensing, contract manufacturing.”
“Some of these possible engagements may assume higher credibility and hence be more readily accepted by local manufacturers as genuine sector development contributions if they were driven put forward by more than one individual player.”
Africa sources around 70 per cent of its medicines from manufacturers based outside the continent, with generics producers in India and China being some of the biggest players in the market. Many of these products are bought with the support of international aid organisations.
However, there is growing dissatisfaction with this on the part of Government policy makers in countries across Africa who argue that it is holding back the development of the continent’s manufacturing sector according to Reinhardt.
“Basically none of the drug procurements undertaken with funding from the big international players – the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, PEPFAR, several others – reaches out to African manufacturers with exceptions such as South Africa that has won tenders.”
“An increased local production of quality pharmaceuticals in developing and least developed countries may positively impact drugs access in remote and rural areas, help ensure quality facilitate regulatory oversight/inspection and or better ensure continuities of supply “beyond the era of donations”.