PATH supports meeting of African health ministers and leaders to advance establishment of the Harmonized Africa Health Manufacturing Platform

July 5, 2023 by PATH

Supporting the expansion of manufacturing capacity for health commodities in response to public health threats on the continent, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention proposes the establishment of a ministerial technical committee for African health technology and biotech manufacturing.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the African Union (AU) COVID-19 Commission, with support from PATH, convened a high-level ministerial meeting with 23 member states participating to discuss progress and coordination in African manufacturing of health commodities.

The focus of the meeting, which took place on May 24, 2023, on the sidelines of the 76th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland, was to propose the establishment of the Harmonized Africa Health Manufacturing Platform. This platform will serve as the ministerial technical committee for African health commodities manufacturing and be committed to the attainment of manufacturing sovereignty on the continent through collaboration, cooperation, communication, and coordination. The platform will analyze gaps in production of health technology and biotech commodities on the continent, identify opportunities for growth of the biotech and health technologies sector, and propose approaches to stimulate this growth. Additionally, the platform will undertake consultations toward finalization of a pooled procurement mechanism to drive market sustainability for health commodities produced in Africa.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Jean Kaseya, the Director-General of Africa CDC, emphasized the urgent need to address gaps in availability and access to health commodities, using vaccines as an example. He highlighted that one in five children in Africa remains unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge. The uneven and unreliable supply of vaccines, exemplified by recent outbreaks of COVID-19, Mpox, and cholera in African member states, underscores the critical importance of ensuring manufacturing and access to high-quality health products.

Africa has historically been the last in line when it comes to acquiring therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines in public health emergencies. According to the AU, this disparity is driven in part by limitations in African manufacturing of health commodities. For example, only 1 percent of the continent’s required vaccines are manufactured locally.

In 2021, the AU launched the New Public Health Order for Africa, a framework for action to address structural public health challenges at national, regional, and global levels. Identifying expanded manufacturing of health commodities as one of five key strategic pillars, the AU’s framework established an ambitious goal for the continent: manufacture 60 percent of Africa’s required vaccines by 2040.

Africa CDC aims to reach that goal through the Harmonized Africa Health Manufacturing Platform. The platform will bring together key stakeholders in pursuit of health on the continent to advocate for the establishment of a pooled procurement mechanism for health products technologies that secures a healthy market for the African manufacturing sector; establish the mechanisms to support African manufacturers with business case development; engage in high-level advocacy within AU member states, bringing together manufacturers, key partners, and other stakeholders in support of the emerging manufacturing industry; and ensure the political commitments made to increase the demand for African-produced health commodities will achieve the targets agreed upon by the AU.

Dr. Morena Makhoana, CEO of Biovac, called on participants to consider the existing manufacturing environment and what is needed to reach the AU’s manufacturing goals. He emphasized the need to support local manufacturing through pooled procurement for products made on the continent and stressed the importance of including industry at policymaking tables. Ms. Akhona Tshangela, Programme Coordinator for the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) at Africa CDC, provided a progress update on the work of PAVM and explained the need for the Harmonized Health Manufacturing Platform.

Following these statements, the discussion was opened to remarks from AU member states. There was a total of 23 member states present in the deliberations. Delegates from Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia voiced their perspectives on the proposed platform, with all 11 countries supporting the platform and emphasizing the need for a pooled procurement mechanism. Several delegates expressed the need to diversify manufacturing across all countries so manufacturers can play complementary roles and avoid duplication, and a few delegates impressed on the need for the platform to consider having specific targets to be achieved within a specific time period and forecasting to ensure products have a market in Africa.

Dr. Lwazi Manzi, Head of Secretariat of the AU COVID-19 Commission, presented on the proposed terms of reference for the platform, including the platform’s deliverables, activities and responsibilities, and commitments expected from members.

Professor Olive Shisana, Special Advisor to the Presidency of South Africa, gave remarks on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa and thanked the efforts of the Africa CDC, the AU COVID-19 Commission, and the Secretariat for their substantive participation.

PATH has been working closely with the Africa CDC, PAVM, and the Secretariat of the AU COVID-19 Commission in conceptualizing the platform and convening meetings bringing together AU member states to initiate discussions on its establishment. Simultaneously, PATH has been advocating for several key initiatives, engaging in high-level advocacy globally and with member states, African manufacturers, key partners, and other stakeholders to garner support for the emerging African manufacturing industry, and ensuring a commitment to increasing the demand for African-produced health commodities through political will and dedication to achieving the targets agreed upon by the AU.

The minutes from the high-level ministerial meeting will be tabled at the AU Heads of State and Government meeting in July, where the official endorsement for the platform is expected to take place.