Uganda and the rest of East African countries will continue to pay heavily for imported medicines as the region has no capacity to produce most of the required medicines, including ARVs.
Uganda’s Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the East African Community (EAC) Affairs, Dr Ali Kirunda Kivejinja, has therefore urged investors to take up opportunities to save the situation, saying the region only produces 30 percent of the medicines needed by the population of this region.
Kivejinja made the call in Arusha Tanzania yesterday during the launch of the on-going EAC Vaccine Production Symposium that has attracted regional and international pharmacists.
He said EAC had the highest projected pharmaceutical sales growth on the continent estimated at 12.4 percent, over the next five years, a fact he said, points to immense business and investment opportunities for the private sector.
Kivejinja, also the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, further said that vaccines were among a category of medicines for which the region wholly depends on imports because there was currently no local production capacity.
Kivejinja also launched the Second EAC Regional Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan of Action for the period 2017-2027, a plan that he said serve as a roadmap to guide the Community towards evolving into an efficient and effective regional pharmaceutical manufacturing hub.
“We have the need and you have the capacity to satisfy our need,” Kivejinja told private sector representatives.
He cited a number of potential niches for expansion of the local product portfolio highlighted in the plan, namely the production of advanced formulations for non-communicable diseases, veterinary pharmaceuticals and development of natural products and traditional medicines.
EAC Secretary General Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko said that, “In Africa, the pharmaceutical spending is currently estimated at US$30 billion and this value is driven by a 10.6 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) second only to Asia Pacific (12.5 percent) and in line with Latin America (10.5 percent).
Speaking at the forum, Asmau Nitardy, the Eastern Africa Regional Director of the German-African Business Association, said that the German health sector offers great potential to meet East African needs in medical technology and pharmaceutical sector.
“Innovative solutions are needed in healthcare infrastructure with the improvement of healthcare systems being an important policy focus in East Africa. The other major trend is the rising demand for medicines and equipment to treat chronic, non-communicable diseases,” said Nitardy.
“German companies are already well placed to cater to both industries having long-standing ties with various East African nations. The high quality of their products technical expertise in training local staff has made German medical companies a valuable partner to local authorities,” she added.
“According to the World Health Organisation, non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic respiratory disease are projected to overtake communicable diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. Deaths from non-communicable diseases are expected to account for 42% of all deaths by 2020, up from roughly 25 percent today,” he said.