The African pharmaceutical industry in search of breath

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In sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority of medicines are imported. (illustration image) AFP / Sia Kambou

By: Olivier Rogez Follow

Sub-Saharan Africa imports nine-tenths of its medicines. A fragile situation, especially during a pandemic. Yet for 20 years, we have witnessed the emergence of local production of drugs, especially in generics.


“  The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the need to develop local industry. Because at the start of the pandemic, certain countries, those which produce the most active substances or finished products, have restricted, even prohibited, the export of certain materials.  "Doctor Vandi Deli, director of Pharmacy and Medicine at the Ministry of Health in Cameroon, sums up the dominant feeling in Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of countries which, for the most part, depend on the outside for their medicines. In Cameroon as in Ivory Coast, manufacturers of generics and pharmaceuticals can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The future of African medicines will depend on local manufacturers

In Abidjan, Pharmivoire Nouvelle produces solutes, that is to say the bottles of intravenous solution found in hospitals. The founder of the company, Elisabeth Kacou, deplores that the state continues to buy abroad what is already already available on the local market.

“  It has to be really and directly involved. With measures such as stopping the importation of locally produced products over a period of five years, just to allow people to recoup their investment,  ”she said.

If today the major French and global laboratories supply Africa, the future of African medicines may depend on local manufacturers. Along with Morocco, Algeria and South Africa, Tunisia is one of the few countries on the continent with a real pharmaceutical industry. An industry that is now looking to export.

► Read also : Africa has no choice but to manufacture its medicines

Growth of African industrialists for almost ten years

Saiph, one of the leaders in Tunisian generic medicine, is currently building a factory in Abidjan. We have created a second platform in Africa, starting with Côte d'Ivoire, which is the real emerging country,  " said Ramzi Sandi, general manager of Saiph. “  Already, [the country] has implemented health insurance, something that will double or triple the Ivorian pharmaceutical market. And from this platform, we will try to supply the sub-Saharan African market.  " 

If the Big Pharma dominate largely on the African market, the local industrialists have experienced double-digit growth for almost ten years, and some like the South African Aspen Pharmacare are already playing in the big leagues, weighing five billion dollars at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

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