The COVID-19 crisis has revived discussions on localising vaccine manufacturing to the African region to reduce the dependence on imports. Several companies have announced their intention to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Africa. These include Aspen in South Africa and Saidal in Algeria. Expertise related to other types of vaccines also exists, for example, in the Institut de Pasteur de Dakar. However, most of these plants focus on the final stages of the value chain, filling vials and packaging. Across Africa, competences related to earlier stages of the value chain are very limited. A key challenge for local manufacturers of vaccines – and drugs more generally – is competition from India. Indian companies have developed pharma competences, especially in generic medicines and vaccines, and benefit from a large domestic market. As most healthcare providers operate under tight budget constraints, they typically opt for imports. Thus, local companies in Africa would find it very challenging to be cost-competitive in the longer run when the current worldwide scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines is overcome as new plants become operational around the world. Given all these constraints, a potential new plant in Africa would not be operational in 2021, and would not help solve the immediate need for vaccines now. Yet, vaccine building vaccine competences is a goal with longer-term benefits.
SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION