COVID-19 has highlighted an underlying structural problem: the wide discrepancy in manufacturing capacities worldwide
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced today at the G20 Global Health Summit in Rome a Team Europe initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa. The initiative will help create an enabling environment for local vaccine manufacturing in Africa and tackle barriers on both supply and demand sides, backed by €1 billion from the EU budget and the European development finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB). This amount will be further enhanced by contributions from EU Member States.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Local health capacities and institutions are the foundation of global health, but today Africa imports 99% of its vaccines and 94% of its medicines. This has to change. Team Europe will support Africa with over €1 billion and expertise to help develop its own pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech industries and ease equitable access to quality and safe products and technologies. The Initiative will also help develop a number of regional manufacturing hubs across the continent so that the whole of Africa can benefit.”
Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “The Team Europe initiative will contribute to our African partners' efforts to improve access to affordable, life-saving health products, advance universal health coverage, and strengthen health systems. It will also boost skills and help create jobs and opportunities for Africa's younger generations. Born from a key lesson learned from this pandemic, this initiative incarnates the spirit of solidarity and mutually beneficial partnerships that the EU promotes.”
Tackling COVID-19 and preparing for the next pandemic
The world now has safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19. Team Europe's immediate priority, therefore, remains to support and accelerate vaccination campaigns in partner countries, primarily through support to COVAX, vaccine-sharing, and addressing logistical gaps and developing the capacity of health authorities and workers.
COVID-19 has highlighted an underlying structural problem: the wide discrepancy in manufacturing capacities worldwide. Europe for example has been able to manufacture 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far, and to export half of them. At the same time, the crisis has shown the importance of diversifying global value chains and opens a window of opportunity for Africa and Europe. African leaders have called for boosting pharmaceutical production in Africa, and Team Europe is responding to this call to support the continent in building its own strong manufacturing and production capacities. The new initiative will complement existing efforts within the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, notably the COVAX Manufacturing Task Force.
A 360˚initiative, with support in the short, medium, and long term
The Team Europe initiative is an integrated and comprehensive support package that will tackle barriers to manufacturing and access to health products and technologies in Africa from all angles and will place the continent's own actors and institutions at its heart.
On the supply side, together with the EIB and development banks, the initiative will incentivize and de-risk investment into local pharmaceutical and biotech companies. For example, the European Commission and the EIB are announcing today a coordination platform for European development banks to facilitate investment in the health sector in Africa.
The Team Europe initiative will support technology transfer and develop a number of regional manufacturing hubs in alignment with the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) which recently launched the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing. Together with several African and international counterparts, the Commission is already actively engaging in promising projects in South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Rwanda.
On the demand side, the initiative will work with African leaders and communities to tackle the fragmentation of local markets and help consolidate demand, facilitate market integration and the use of locally produced goods.
The initiative will greatly strengthen pharmaceutical and health systems, thus creating an enabling environment for sustainability. It will contribute to developing human resources by investing in skills and education, by increasing African research capacities, and by enhancing scientific cooperation between the two continents. The initiative will also address the problem of falsified products and boost confidence in local goods by strengthening regulatory frameworks. In this context, the future African Medicines Agency (AMA) can count on the European Medicines Agency. The European Commission is also willing to support digital solutions, for example to trace vaccines and medicines across the supply chain.
This specific Team Europe initiative will be further backed up by other national, regional and global health initiatives supported by Global Europe. The Commission is keen to underpin health systems and promote health security and pandemic preparedness.
Work has already begun to make these commitments a reality. The Commission has been engaged for a number of months with African partners, EU Member States, the EIB, European development finance institutions, and the private sector. A number of EU Member States have indicated their interest to join this Team Europe initiative. The comprehensive strategy and operational steps will be prepared in close collaboration with African partners. Team Europe will work intensively during this year to prepare the first announcements at the next EU-Africa summit.