Industry Engagement Forum in Lagos aims to increase health product manufacturing in Africa

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The 2024 Industry Engagement Forum, themed “Unlocking Healthcare Value Chains and Driving Investment through Partnerships: Accelerating Equitable Access to Quality-Assured Sustainable Health Products,” is set to take place from May 7-9, 2024, in Lagos, Nigeria. More than 300 participants are scheduled to attend the forum, which aims to accelerate equitable access to urgently needed health products through collaborative partnerships, and to facilitate investment opportunities as interventions to expand local pharmaceutical manufacturing.

The forum is co-convened by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the global health organization Unitaid in association with the Presidential Initiative on Unlocking Healthcare Value Chains (PVAC). The initiative reflects a strategic move to unlock billions in new investments and reshape Nigeria’s and Africa’s health care landscape through multifaceted partnerships and substantial financial commitments.

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While Africa shoulders 25% of the world’s disease burden – including major infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria – more than 95% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients and 70% of the pharmaceuticals consumed on the continent are imported. This leaves countries vulnerable to price volatility, supply chain disruptions, or unavailability of essential health products, particularly during periods of supply scarcity in the face of surges in regional or global demand or after climate-related shocks or extreme weather events.

Taking a smart approach to making tests, treatments, and health tools available in Africa by strengthening regional manufacturing on the continent will enhance health security, increase sustainable access to affordable health solutions, and provide tailored solutions for regional needs. This will also contribute significantly to the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and support the achievement of climate targets by reducing transport costs and carbon emissions.

“It is no longer an option to industrialize the health care sector. It is imperative and a necessity for future stability and growth,” said Dr. Abdu Mukhtar, PVAC National Coordinator.

The forum will bring together international and African health care industry representatives, including government agencies, research institutions, regulatory agencies, industry partners, development partners, development financial institutions, donor agencies, and foundations working on access to medicines and diagnostics. Over three days, participants will engage in discussions on creating sustainable regional value chains for health products, which are crucial for achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and enhancing health security across the continent.

“Africa’s high dependency on imported pharmaceuticals and vaccines (50% to 70% or more) puts it at risk as recent international supply chain disruptions during the COVID pandemic highlighted. IFC is co-hosting this event in Africa to underscore our commitment to strengthening local manufacturing value chains and creating resilient health ecosystems. Nigeria’s strong pharma-manufacturing sector and regulatory reforms for universal health care make it a significant choice for this event,” said Dahlia Khalifa, IFC Regional Director for Central Africa, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Highlights of the forum will include panel discussions on best practices for manufacturing quality-assured health products, strategic financing opportunities, and the role of digital technology in enhancing health product distribution networks. The event will also facilitate one-on-one investment clinics and networking opportunities to foster business-to-business and government-to-business collaborations.

“The African Development Bank is implementing a groundbreaking Pharmaceutical Action Plan with investment of $100 million annually to bolster Africa’s pharmaceutical ecosystem through strategic private and public sector interventions and partnerships,” said Solomon Quaynor, Vice President for the Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization at AfDB. “At the pivotal health care Industry Engagement Forum, we will showcase our visionary Pharmaceutical Action Plan 2021-2030 and an array of financial and non-financial tools designed to empower the pharmaceutical private sector.” 

The African continent accounts for almost 17% of the world’s population with nearly 1.3 billion people yet manufactures only 3% of global drug production. Significantly reducing dependency on imported health products in Africa is essential for the success and sustainability of public health programs across the continent if we are to achieve universal health coverage and reach SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being, by strengthening health systems, enhancing social equity, and improving overall well-being.

“Now is an opportune moment to invest in the regional manufacturing of quality-assured, affordable health products in Africa. The current global health landscape, combined with Africa’s growing pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities, offers a unique chance to achieve more robust and self-sufficient health care systems across the continent,” said Robert Matiru, Unitaid’s Director of Programs. “By localizing production, we improve access to essential health products, reduce dependency on international supply chains, and empower local economies. Strengthening regional production is vital for sustainable, resilient health care. It is crucial for stakeholders to work together on this vision.”

The 2024 Industry Engagement Forum (IEF) is part of a series of stakeholder engagements globally to promote access to health innovation, support equitable access to health care solutions, and enhance the capacity for effective health emergency preparedness and response in low- and middle-income countries. The event will be live-streamed. Register here(link is external) to attend online.

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