New Zimbabwe.com

Africa needs to make more medicine, health ministers

African countries import more than 97 percent of medicine, and the way to resolve this is to develop local manufacturing capacity, African health officials have said.

The high-level delegates from African nations are attending a six-day conference in Beijing themed “Access to Medicine and Local Production Orientation” to discuss ways to enhance China-Africa cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector.

The meeting started on Friday and was organized to boost partnership between African policymakers and Chinese pharmaceutical industries ahead of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit that runs from September 3-4.

Shortage of drugs has become a major challenge for African countries. The region, which is home to nearly 10 percent of the world’s population, has high disease prevalence. It bears 25 percent of the global disease burden. However, local production and development of drugs remain extremely low.

“It is also our expectation that this meeting will come with a specific resolution to promote local production of pharmaceutical industries in Africa as we truly believe this will facilitate accessibility and affordability of medicine and medical devices to people on the African continent,” said Ummy Mwalimu (pictured), Tanzania’s Minister for Health while addressing delegates.

Chitalu Chilufya, Zambia’s Health Minister said fundamentals should be the basis for Africa’s health cooperationwith china. For him, the supply chain for medicine needs to be addressed, focusing on local manufacturing of drugs to push to get medicines as close to the people.as possible

He added that health information systems leveraging technology that china has made so much progress would help Africa reform policy through adequate evidence.

“Good health systems should have adequate infrastructure to create access for people to health services. And this is a rare opportunity for China and Africa to partner in investing in adequate infrastructure to create access to health services,” he said.

“It is important that we invest in partnerships that will build strong human capital development programs so that we can build self-motivated human resource to deliver these health services to our people,” he added.

In 2006, China invested an estimated $35 million into health-related projects in African countries. The funding increased to $150 million annually by 2014.

According to the United Nations (UN), Africa is likely to miss the sustainable development goal (SDG) of eliminating AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria if affordable and quality medicine supply is not maintained in the region. 

Timothy Martineau, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said that it was a major challenge to maintain quality pharmaceutical supply to African countries cost-effectively and sustainably.

The New York Times