Are We at a Tipping Point for Health Products Manufacturing in Africa

On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, Corporate Council on Africa’s (CCA) U.S. – Africa Health Security and Resilience Initiative (HSRI) held a webinar titled “Are We at a Tipping Point for Health Products Manufacturing in Africa?” The event featured keynote speaker Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy at the Department of State, who began by recognizing the 20-year anniversary of PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and focused his reflection on manufacturing. He mentioned that when COVID-19 hit, scarcity led to more inequities and emphasized the need for regional manufacturing in the interest of collective security, which has two elements: the supply side and the demand side.

The challenges on the supply side include regulatory impediments, working capital, and human capacity, while inefficiencies in procurement and policies present challenges on the demand side. Dr. Nkengasong stressed the importance of unpacking the complexities of decentralizing manufacturing and factoring in the demand and supply side.

He also provided three recommendations for PEPFAR, including investing in decentralized manufacturing of HIV products to protect the gains made over the years. He expressed his disappointment that no country in Africa produces a simple HIV rapid test and shared that PEPFAR is working with regional financial facilities such as the African Development Bank to support countries and laboratories interested in producing commodities in their region.

Following Dr. Nkengasong’s message, Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Corporate Council on Africa, moderated a panel discussion featuring Ms. Uzoma Ezeoke, Executive Director of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Dr. Perrer Tosso, Director, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Supply Programs at the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP); and Mr. Erik Takang, Senior Advisor, Health Commodities and Supply Chain at the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator & Health Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State.

Dr. Tosso painted a picture of the current landscape of pharmaceutical diagnostics and vaccine manufacturing in Africa and mentioned the key enabling factors that need to be in place for the regional manufacturing ecosystem to flourish. Ms. Ezeoke focused on quality and infrastructure, discussing the successes of Emzor and what is still needed to bring competence and savings to local manufacturers. Mr. Takang provided more detail on PEPFAR’s strategies for working with regulatory agencies and development finance institutions on the continent to reach their targets. The webinar wrapped up with a discussion on the huge opportunities for investments in the manufacturing area that would provide significant help to the region. Panelists discussed the areas in which investment would be beneficial along with the long-term effects. 

Once again, CCA would like to express our gratitude to U.S. Pharmacopeia for their sponsorship and support of this webinar and the U.S.-Africa Health Security and Resilience Initiative (HSRI).