Vaccine Manufacturing in Africa – an unexploited industry
By Emmanuel Allottey
Africa is plagued by the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. The African continent has made progress in manufacturing in industries that directly contribute to its economic growth whilst lagging in key industries such as pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent scramble for the vaccine has highlighted the advantages of having a developed vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Currently less than 1% of the vaccines used in Africa are produced in Africa signifying the opportunity for industry growth.
The value of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry is predicted to be worth $40-$65 billion in 2020. This is a win-win for multinationals and pharmaceutical companies seeking new sources of growth as developed markets stagnate and for patients, who will gain access to medicines previously unavailable on the continent.
Africa has the highest incidence of mortality caused by infectious diseases and does not have a developed industry and value chain that supports the manufacturing of vaccines that are essential to reduction of mortality, improvement of life expectancy, and promotion of economic growth.
Vaccine manufacturing is complex and requires huge financial investments and collaboration from different stakeholders. The African Vaccine Manufacturing Initiative (AVMI) was formed as a continental initiative to advocate for strengthening Africa’s capacity to develop and manufacture vaccines. Through this initiative, companies, institutions, international organizations and individuals, are brought together to develop the manufacturing industry in Africa.
The coronavirus pandemic exposed the inability of African nations to manufacture and supply essential drugs and personal protective equipment (PPEs) needed to curb the disease. The breakthrough development of the vaccine by only a handful of pharmaceutical companies further uncovered the untapped industry of vaccine manufacturing across the world and particularly in Africa.
Through the COVAX initiative – which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with UNICEF – more than 16 million vaccine doses have so far been shipped to 27 countries. There are fewer than 10 African manufacturers with vaccine production capabilities and are based in five countries: Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
The current COVID-19 pandemic presents a great opportunity for African nations to develop a vaccine manufacturing industry. The capability to produce vaccines requires a fully integrated combination of financial investment, skills development, introduction of a regulatory framework, infrastructure development, and the technology know-how which can be achieved through public-private partnership.