The European Union and the Gates Foundation will invest over 100 million euros ($113.4million) over the next five years to help set up an African medicines regulator to boost the continent’s drugs and vaccine production, the EU Commission said on Tuesday.
The announcement, which confirms a Reuters report last week, comes ahead of a summit on Thursday of EU and African Union leaders when the EU is expected to reiterate its commitment for a 150-billion-euro investment package in Africa.
A treaty establishing the African Medicines Agency (AMA) came into force in November but the agency currently exists only on paper. So far just over half of the 55 African Union member states have ratified the treaty setting up the regulator.
The funding for the AMA will come from the EU Commission, Germany, France, Belgium and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a nonprofit that plays a major role in global health, the EU Commission said in a statement.
“We are trying to support African partners so that they could produce 60% of the vaccines they use by 2040,” EU commissioner for international partnerships Jutta Urpilainen told reporters.
Last week the president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would mobilise 150 billion euros for Africa incoming years as part of its global investment strategy. That includes the funding to AMA.
“Strengthening health systems and immunisation capacities of the African continent is at the centre of our work,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said.
A trusted regulator is crucial for the development of pharmaceutical products.
The race to establish the AMA comes after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the region’s dependence on imported vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. Just over 5% of medicines, and 1% of vaccines, consumed by the population of 1.2 billion people are produced locally.
Africa initially struggled to get COVID-19 vaccine doses as rich countries snapped up limited supplies. Deliveries to the continent later picked up, but just 10% of Africans are fully vaccinated.($1 = 0.8814 euro)