President Cyril Ramaphosa says the selection of South Africa by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to establish the first mRNA technology transfer hub will help change the continent’s image and promote self-reliance.

The hub will boost vaccine manufacturing abilities in the region, as Africa continues to struggle with vaccine procurement. It will be established through a partnership consisting of South Africa’s Biovac Institute, Afrigen, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and universities.

WHO says it could see South Africa producing vaccines in the next nine to 12 months.

Addressing a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday night, Ramaphosa said the hub will lay the foundation for health security in African countries.

“Today marks an important move towards the achievement of one of the critical objectives of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Africa we want. The ability to manufacture vaccines, medicines and other health-related commodities will help put Africa on a path to self-determination.

Through this initiative and others, we will change the narrative of an Africa that is a centre of disease and poor development. We will create a narrative that celebrates our successes in reducing the burden of disease and advancing self-reliance, also advancing sustainable development,” added the South African President.

President Ramaphosa participates in a joint briefing on COVID-19 vaccines:

More than 50 proposals were submitted to the WHO by companies offering to transfer technology, knowledge and skills for the mRNA hubs.

The global body says it will work with the ACDC to set up the guidelines and guidance for the project aimed at increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity.

WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus says COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies.