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East Africa eyes own robust pharmaceutical industry

Donors' conditions inhibited growth of the sector

Thursday May 10, 2018

By Tranquility News Correspondent, Arusha

The East African Community (EAC) has officially launched its 2nd Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action 2017 – 2027 to guide the region towards building an efficient and effective pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.

Pharmaceutical imports into the EAC have been rising significantly over the last few years. While the region imported pharmaceutical products estimated at $473 million in 2006, import values rose to $800 million in 2008 and $1.5 billion in 2015.

On average, the pharmaceutical markets in the region with over 175 million dwellers stand at $1.74 billion, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of over 10 per cent.

At $740 million, Kenya has the largest pharmaceutical market, followed by Uganda $450 million, Tanzania $400 million, Rwanda $100 million and Burundi $75 million.

Political instability still remains a barrier for South Sudan to register significant investment in pharmaceutical and healthcare markets.

The Chairman of the EAC Council of Ministers, Dr Kirunda Kivejinja, observed shortly after he launched the action plan that the begging syndrome among EAC partner states was partly to blame for inhibiting growth of the pharmaceutical industry in the region.

The Chairman of the EAC Council of Ministers, Dr Kirunda Kivejinja (left), the Rwandan Minister of Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba (centre), and the EAC Deputy Secretary General (Finance and Administration), Mr Christopher Bazivamo, display copies of the Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action 2017 – 2027 in Arusha recently. PHOTO | EAC

Dr Kivejinja said donors often came with strings attached when it comes to drugs procurement procedures and processes.

“Sometimes beggars cannot be choosers, some people may want to give you aid on condition to buy drugs from firms of their choices,” he said in an interview.

The EAC Deputy Secretary General (Finance and Administration), Mr Christopher Bazivamo, said the pharmaceutical plan of action sets four targets for the development of the sector in the region.

Procurement procedures and processes should support domestic job creation and youth employment as envisioned in the EAC Common Market Protocol,” – Dr Kirsten Focken, the GIZ Programme Manager

He enumerated them as decreasing dependency on pharmaceutical imports from over 70 per cent to less than 50 per cent, and supporting the expansion of product portfolio of local firms to cater for more than 90 per cent of disease conditions.

Other targets are to ensure at least 50 per cent of purchases by national medicines procurement agencies are sourced from the EAC pharmaceutical manufacturers, and at least five companies produce more advanced pharmaceutical formulations such as delayed release formulations, small volume injectables and double layered tablets, among others, by 2027.

GIZ, the German international non-governmental organisation, provided technical and financial support for the development of the regional pharmaceutical manufacturing plan of action.

“Governments in East Africa need to support investors, who have already set up pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, through prioritising procurement of drugs manufactured within the region,” Dr Kirsten Focken, the GIZ Programme Manager, said.

“Procurement procedures and processes should support domestic job creation and youth employment as envisioned in the EAC Common Market Protocol,” she told a vaccines symposium in Arusha.

But the Chairman of the Federation of East African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, told Tranquility News on the sidelines of the two-day symposium that enhanced cooperation and harmonisation was also required for reducing regulatory barriers and broadening export markets.

Mr Nazeem Mohammed (right), the Chairman of the Federation of East African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, responds to journalists’ questions on the sidelines of the 1st EAC Vaccines Production Symposium in Arusha. PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT

Dr Kevejinja, who doubles as Uganda’s Second Deputy Prime Minister and the minister for the EAC Affairs, said the region’s highest pharmaceutical sales growth estimated at 12.4 per cent over the next five years pointed immense business and investment opportunities.

The objective of the vaccine symposium was to give regional and international pharmaceutical players a platform for exploring in detail the potential for local vaccine production and the required incentives, as the region currently lacks a single plant for production of the essential product.

The symposium attracted ministries responsible for industry, health and regional cooperation, vaccine production experts, local and multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers, representatives of UN agencies, international development partners, civil society and the EAC Secretariat.

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