One of the largest continents of the world, Africa, is considered as a beautiful place with various types of animals, trees and many more surprising things. The place is abundant in natural resources; hence different raw materials are easily available for the production of a range of pharmaceutical products.
Though it is considered as a great place to visit, the real scenario is not very sunny as the country is struggling to fight against starvation, infection, high mortality rate and a growing population rate of 5.6% every year. In the year of 2013 it was recognized as the poorest continent. Fifty percent of total deaths under the age group of five takes place here. Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Africa’s inability to access one third of vital medicinal requirements.
Considering all the reasons, different pharmaceutical companies are focusing on Africa to capture the larger unexplored market. Before discussing the initiative taken to strengthen the stronghold of this sector in the continent, let us have a look into the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry here.
Challenges faced by the African pharmaceutical sector
Currently, only 38% of the essential drugs reach the African public. The pharmaceutical sector is plagued by weaknesses like insufficient supply chain, limited local production, and feeble procurement systems along with the existence of pharmaceutical products that are sub-standard or counterfeited.
Considering all the countries in the continent, the range of products is also limited and comprises antimalarial, anti-helminthic, older generation antibiotics, neuropsychiatric drugs and anti-diabetics, cough and cold preparation and a few others.
Along with these, the sector is also affected by the following:
- HIV/AIDS formulations are mostly imported, mainly from India
- 95% of the inputs including construction, design, laboratory equipment, foils for packaging and so on are primarily imported.
- The legal and financial infrastructure is not so supportive.
- The sector suffers from lack of skilled manpower as well as adequate availability of market intelligence services
Keeping in mind the challenges faced by the industry, the opportunities are also immense and is triggered by these aspects:
- The continent will have a total population of 1.3 billion by the year 2020
- With a GDP of 2.9 trillion US dollars, the healthcare expenditure is expected to reach 200 billion US dollars.
- The continent is currently undergoing an enhancement in health insurance coverage combined with the rise in the number of people accessing healthcare.
- There is a considerable increase in pandemics and lifestyle diseases.
Intensifying the pharmaceutical innovation
To instill more innovation for the growth of the pharmaceutical sector in Africa, the African Development Bank is working in collaboration with the private sector and governments to ensure that:
- Medicines are affordable
- The sector drives economic growth and creates more jobs.
The bank has entered into the following partnerships to strengthen the innovation:
- Partnership with NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) to enhance the medicine accessibility in Africa through the AMRH or African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization program
- Partnership with ANDI (African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation) for revamping Africa’s pharmaceutical sector by means of regional operation
- Association with a project involving the Pan-African region
Moreover, initiatives have been taken in Africa to seek partners amidst pharmaceutical organizations who would trigger the capacity for research and innovation, by operating in the following domains:
- Collaboration with countries for development of regional and national strategies that would enhance the sector’s accessibility and scope for innovation.
- Indulging in capacity building for policy makers, senior research managers so that accessibility and innovation are efficiently managed and designed.
- Experience sharing and partnership building amongst research organizations, pharmaceutical producers, policy makers and the society at large.
- Development of processes and tools that would ensure implementation of the AU Health Strategy, the WHO Global Strategy and Africa’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan.
Thus we can see that the pharmaceutical market is ripe with opportunities in spite of all the odds. Strategic partnerships and innovation can indeed ensure tremendous growth in this sector, so far as Africa is concerned.
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