Johannesburg, 5 April 2022: While World Health Day marks the advances that medical science has made towards human longevity and improved lifestyles, Africa still lags behind the rest of the world in terms of access to healthcare.
The need for improved access to healthcare has been reinforced by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted health inequities between the developed and developing worlds. To date, fewer than 10% of Africans have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus and access to vaccines generally remains unequal1.
“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the unequal access that Africa has to vaccines and thus improved healthcare, with less than 1% of lifesaving vaccines manufactured on the continent,” says Siby Diabira, Regional Director for Proparco in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
There is much work to do in terms of providing equitable access to vaccines in Africa, which carries a disproportionately high burden of disease.
For companies and communities on the continent, this presents an opportunity in healthcare production because investments in advanced pharmaceutical technology will enable manufacturers to contribute to improved access to treatment, respond to public health emergencies and to create economic, export and job creation opportunities.
Last year, vaccine development in Africa received a multi-billion-rand booster shot. In June 2021, Agence Française de Développement Group (AFD Group) through its subsidiary Proparco, together with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the German Development Finance Institution DEG and the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), announced a joint financing package for South African-based Aspen Pharmacare to support the development of vaccines for Africa. It will also enable vaccine manufacturing know-how and knowledge sharing on the continent.
The €600-million (R9,63-billion) joint financing package, comprising €200-million from IFC, €156-million from Proparco, €144-million from DEG and €100-million from DFC, will reduce Africa’s reliance on global manufacturers for vaccines and other therapies. It is the IFC’s largest global healthcare investment and mobilisation to date.
The financial package has dovetailed with the call from African governments to bolster the continent’s vaccine supply chain in response to the pandemic and to promote longer-term health sector resilience.
Aspen CEO, Stephen Saad, said the investment would refinance existing debt and strengthen the balance sheet to support its initiative for vaccine and other therapy production in Africa and emerging markets. Aspen then partnered with Johnson & Johnson to compound, finish, fill and package the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. It also recently built a fully certified sterile injectables facility at its existing site in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).
Since 2014, Proparco has grown its commitment to support businesses and financial institutions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East from €1 billion annually to €2.5 billion, with France in particular seeking partnerships in Africa.
“Aspen will be in a strong position to provide vaccines for the African continent. It is Proparco’s intention to contribute to local production and manufacturing, thus ensuring African solutions for African challenges,” says Diabira.
The aim was to facilitate more local access regardless of the sector, with Proparco focused on green energy, climate change initiatives and healthcare.
In March, a nine-strong consortium of development partners including Proparco also announced a partnership with the Biovac Institution to support the bio-pharmaceutical company’s vaccine manufacturing expansion. Biovac will raise around $150-million (R2.3-billion) to boost local vaccine manufacturing capacity across Africa.
Biovac is a partnership formed with the South African government in 2003 to establish local vaccine manufacturing capacity to national health management and security. The company aims to establish world-class international African vaccine manufacturing capability to meet domestic capacity to respond to local and regional needs.
Diabira says Proparco’s support to the Biovac infrastructure project would provide capacity for the next decade as the facility’s expanded potential is expected to come on-stream in three to four years.
“In working together, the private and public sectors, specifically senior government players, can empower local companies and citizens to find solutions and close the existing gaps in healthcare and other sectors that Africa faces. World Health Day can demonstrate the opportunities inherent in Africa to move forward,” says Diabira.
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Agence Française de Développement (AFD) implements France’s policy on international development and solidarity. Through its financing of NGOs and the public sector, as well as its research and publications, AFD supports and accelerates transitions towards a fairer, more resilient world. It also provides training in sustainable development (at the AFD Campus) and other awareness-raising activities in France.
As the AFD subsidiary focused on private sector development, Proparco has been promoting sustainable economic, social and environmental development practices since 1977. The organisation provides funding and support to both businesses and financial institutions across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and seeks to partner projects in key development sectors – infrastructure (with a focus on renewable energies), agribusiness, financial institutions, healthcare and education.
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