Catalysing health R&D, innovation and access

South African Health Technologies Advocacy Coalition

Africa should style up as its seeks to address future public health threats

By The Standard Team

The Covid-19 pandemic devastated the African continent in many ways economically, socially, and politically with the disruptions evident in all parts of the world.

However, like other pandemics and epidemics, Covid-19 has exposed critical failures in multilateralism and global solidarity. Africa has remained among the last in line to access necessary medical supplies and tools – from personal protective equipment to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

African local manufacturers are at a competitive disadvantage due to the different market forces including poor and inefficient production value chains, high cost of production of medicines and vaccines, poor financing, and financing models and hence important to open and sustain the financing discussions to raise funds specifically for African manufacturing.

In response to the systemic failures in global health security architecture, Africa has witnessed remarkable regional and national leadership in responding to the pandemic and importantly, in identifying what needs to be done and prioritised in the quest to strengthen both national and continental health security.

The Second International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) – convened by Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in December 2022 presented a platform for different stakeholders to share lessons and outline what needs to be prioritised to strengthen health security in the continent. The underlying consensus at a side event co-convened by the Coalition for Health Research and Development, South African Health Technologies Advocacy Coalition and Pandemic Action Network at CPHIA 2022 was that – only a strong and sustainable local manufacturing industry will strengthen global health security and afford Africa a robust system that would sustainably increase access to life-saving health products and reduce reliance on other regions, when pandemics and other health crises strike.

Other platforms

It is easy to forecast this as an important agenda in other conversations this year including in the upcoming Africa Union Summit in February 2023, the Africa Health Agenda International Conference 2023 in March and the World Health Assembly in May 2023, among other platforms.

As the political leaders, private sector, academia and civil society actors increasingly show convergence on what needs to be done to enhance health security in the continent from what they speak, it is time to accelerate the action. The continent must not be found unprepared and without resilient health systems when the next pandemic strikes. Some key recommendations from the discussions in Kigali point to the areas requiring accelerated action. Firstly, Africa governments play a central role in sustainable financing and institutionalization of a streamlined regulatory system that encourages research and development, domestic product development and sustainable incentivization of the private sector.

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