The government of Rwanda, disclosed this week it has signed a host agreement for the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF) –a pan-African agency aimed to promote technological use in the medical ecosystem of the continent.
The institution set up and approved by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Board of Directors in June 2022, at the request of African Union member states comes as a dedicated institution to boost Africa’s access to technology for manufacturing the full range of pharmaceutical products.
It will work to promote technology access and transfer, facilitate technological upgrading of relevance to the pharmaceutical sector for Africa, and put in place several dedicated programs that will focus on enhancing technology absorption in Africa’s private and public sectors.
According to AfDB data, Africa imports more than 70 percent of the medications it needs at a cost of up to $14 billion annually, while it only manufactures one percent of the needed vaccines.
Signing the agreement, Dr Vincent Biruta, Foreign Affairs Minister, said that it symbolizes the collective commitment to leveraging science and technology for the greater good, creating an ecosystem that fosters research, development, and equitable sharing of knowledge.
He emphasized that it is their wish that such initiatives be multiplied across the continent, noting that this is the fruit of joint commitment, collaboration, and innovation in advancing pharmaceutical sector for the benefit of people on the entire continent.
Akinwumi Adesina, President of AfDB, noted that the foundation will also negotiate access to Intellectual Property protected manufacturing processes and build an ecosystem support for revamping local pharmaceutical industrial sector in Africa.
“The success will depend on building local pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, assuring technology transfer and access to intellectual property rights, manufacturing processes and systems, equally important is the need to build the pharmaceutical and biomedical research and development ecosystems that can support world-class local pharmaceutical industries.”
Gelsomina Vilgiotti, European Investment Bank Vice President, also signed a partnership agreement with the APTF to support the foundation’s programmes advancement.
“Protecting and improving public health can only be achieved by improving access to technology and skills and enhancing resilience in the face of crisis. Our global focus extends to improving primary healthcare and diagnostics, combating diseases such as polio and scaling down the life sciences across Africa.”
She commended Rwanda for being a beacon for healthcare transformation in Africa by hosting different institutions, including the upcoming African Medicine Agency.
The foundation is a solution to challenges facing African indigenous pharmaceutical companies such as weak human and institutional capacities, absorptive capacity for new technologies and lack of access to basic active pharmaceutical ingredients for drugs or antigens for vaccines.
APTF Advisory Council Chairmanship has been handed to President Paul Kagame, along with other members including Moussa Faki, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of World Health Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of World Trade Organization, and Adesina of AfDB, among others.
The signing ceremony takes place when Rwanda is also inaugurating the first-ever BioNTech m-RNA-based vaccine manufacturing plant on the continent, following the completion of establishing BioNTainer facilities.