In a world of imperfect information, institutions must reflect African realities
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced today (20 May) at the G20 World Health Summit in Rome, a Team Europe initiative on the manufacture and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa. The initiative will help create an enabling environment for local vaccine manufacture in Africa and overcome barriers on both the supply and demand side, supported by € 1 billion from the EU budget and institutions European development finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB). This amount will be further increased by contributions from EU Member States.
Von der Leyen said: “Local health capacities and institutions are the foundation of global health, but today Africa imports 99% of its vaccines and 94% of its medicines. This must change. Team Europe will support Africa with more than one billion euros and expertise to help develop its own pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical industries, and facilitate equitable access to quality and safe products and technologies. The Initiative will also help develop a number of regional manufacturing centers across the continent, so that all of Africa can benefit. “
Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said: “The Team Europe initiative will contribute to the efforts of our African partners to improve access to affordable and life-saving health products, advance universal health coverage and strengthen health systems. It will also build skills and help create jobs and opportunities for Africa’s younger generations. Born from a key lesson learned from this pandemic, this initiative embodies the spirit of solidarity and mutually beneficial partnerships that the EU promotes. “
Fight COVID-19 and prepare for the next pandemic
The world now has safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Team Europe’s immediate priority therefore remains to support and accelerate vaccination campaigns in partner countries, mainly by supporting COVAX, sharing vaccines, filling logistical gaps and developing the capacities of health authorities and workers.
COVID-19 has highlighted an underlying structural problem: the large gap in manufacturing capabilities around the world. Europe, for example, has so far been able to manufacture 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and export half of them. At the same time, the crisis has shown the importance of diversifying global value chains and opens a window of opportunity for Africa and Europe. African leaders have called for boosting pharmaceutical production in Africa, and Team Europe is responding to this call to help the continent build its own manufacturing and production capacities. The new initiative will complement existing efforts within the COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator (ACT), including the COVAX Manufacturing Working Group.
A 360-degree initiative, with short, medium and long term support
The Team Europe initiative is an integrated and comprehensive support program that will tackle the barriers to manufacturing and access to health products and technologies in Africa from all angles, and place the continent’s actors and institutions in its heart.
On the supply side, in collaboration with the EIB and development banks, the initiative will encourage and reduce the risks of investing in local pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. For example, the European Commission and the EIB today announced a coordination platform for European development banks to facilitate investments in the health sector in Africa.
The Team Europe initiative will support the transfer of technology and develop a number of regional manufacturing centers in alignment with the African Union and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) which recently launched the African Vaccine Manufacturing Partnerships. With several African and international counterparts, the Commission is already actively engaged in promising projects in South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Rwanda.
On the demand side, the initiative will work with African leaders and communities to combat the fragmentation of local markets and help consolidate demand, facilitate market integration and the use of locally produced goods.
The initiative will greatly strengthen pharmaceutical and health systems, thus creating an environment conducive to sustainability. It will contribute to the development of human resources by investing in skills and education, increasing African research capacities and strengthening scientific cooperation between the two continents. The initiative will also tackle the problem of counterfeit products and build confidence in local products by strengthening regulatory frameworks. In this context, the future African Medicines Agency (AMA) will be able to count on the European Medicines Agency. The European Commission is also ready to support digital solutions, for example to trace vaccines and medicines along the supply chain.
This specific Team Europe initiative will be reinforced by other national, regional and global health initiatives supported by Global Europe. The Commission is keen to support health systems and promote health security and pandemic preparedness.
Work has already started to make these commitments a reality. The Commission has been engaged for several months with African partners, EU Member States, the EIB, European development finance institutions and the private sector. A number of EU Member States have expressed interest in joining this Team Europe initiative. The overall strategy and operational steps will be prepared in close collaboration with African partners. Team Europe will work intensively during this year to prepare the first announcements at the next EU-Africa summit.