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AfDB approves African Pharmaceutical Foundation, aims to close $14bn annual import gaps

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THE Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved the establishment of the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF).

The APTF initiative, the AfDB explained, would enable the continent close an annual pharmaceutical sector import bill of $14 billion.

According to the bank, the new institution would further enhance Africa’s access to the technologies that underpin the manufacture of medicines, vaccines, and other pharmaceutical products.

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The AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, in a statement, said of the approval, “This is a great development for Africa. Africa must have a health defence system, which must include three major areas: revamping Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, and building Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure.”

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According to Adesina, Africa imports more than 70 per cent of all the medicines it needs.

At the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in February 2022, the continent’s leaders had called on the AfDB to facilitate the establishment of the APTF.

Adesina, who had then presented the APTF proposal to the African Union, told the body that Africa could no longer outsource the healthcare security of its 1.3 billion citizens to the benevolence of others.

With the approval, the AfDB has made good its commitment to the initiative.

The approval is expected to enhance the health prospects of the African continent, which suffers from diseases and pandemics but with very limited capacity to produce its own medicines and vaccines.

When fully established, the foundation will be staffed with world-class experts on pharmaceutical innovation and development, intellectual property rights, and health policy.

It is also expected to act as a transparent intermediator advancing and brokering the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global and other Southern pharmaceutical companies to share IP-protected technologies, know-how and patented processes.

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Adesina, giving further insight on the development said, “Even with the decision of the TRIPS Waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO), millions are dying – and will most likely continue to die – from lack of vaccines and effective protection. The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation provides a practical solution and will help to tilt the access to proprietary technologies, knowledge, know-how and processes in favour of Africa.”

He noted that the WTO and the World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed and lauded the AfDB’s decision to establish the APTF.

Lending her voice to the development, the WTO director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said, “The African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation is an innovative thinking and action by the African Development Bank. It provides part of the infrastructure needed to assure an emerging pharmaceutical industry in Africa.”

Also, the Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said, “Establishing the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation by the African Development Bank is a game changer on accelerating the access of African pharmaceutical companies to IP-protected technologies and know-how in Africa”.

The ICIR reports that the APTF will prioritize technologies, products and processes focused primarily on diseases that are widely prevalent in Africa, including current and future pandemics.

It will also build human and professional skills, the research and development ecosystem, and support upgrading of manufacturing plant capacities and regulatory quality to meet WHO standards.

The APTF is also expected to strengthen local pharmaceutical companies to engage in local production initiatives with systematic technology learning and technology upgrading at the plant level.

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It will be working with African governments, and research and development centres of excellence to strengthen the regional pharmaceutical and vaccine innovation ecosystem for Africa, as well as build the required skills for the pharmaceutical sector to flourish.

The AfDB has confirmed that Rwanda will be hosting the APTF.

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