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The three Maghreb countries are candidates to host the headquarters of the African Medicines Agency

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Wednesday, April 13th 2022 à 15:40 | Read 417 times

With the candidacy of Tunisia, it is now the three Maghreb countries that want to host the permanent headquarters of the future African Medicines Agency.

The African pharmaceutical industry is mainly located in the north of the continent (photo: AMDI)
The African pharmaceutical industry is mainly located in the north of the continent (photo: AMDI)
AFRICA. After the candidacies of Morocco, Algeria and Senegal, Tunisia announced on Monday 12 April 2022 that it was also vying to host the permanent headquarters of the future African Medicines Agency (AMA).

The AMA was established in February 2019 by the signing of a treaty at the 32nd Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU). This text entered into force in November 2021 after ratification by the Cameroonian Parliament. Its clauses required at least 15 countries to be parties to the WADA to come into being. There are now about thirty.

The latest signatory to date is Morocco, which ratified the treaty on 5 April 2022 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. "As a member of the African Union and a regional leader in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in terms of infrastructure, technology and experience acquired over the years, Morocco remains very attached to the high quality of medicines and is aware that the health and safety of the African citizen depends on quality medicinal products and effective medicines," commented Mohamed Arrouchi, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the African Union and UNECA.

WADA will facilitate access to medicines in Africa

As a coordinating body, WADA will be responsible for building the capacity of African signatory countries and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in the regulation of medical products to facilitate access to quality, safe and effective medical products in Africa. The WADA will also promote the adoption and harmonisation of regulatory policies and standards for medical products, provide the necessary scientific guidance and coordinate existing regulatory harmonisation efforts in the RECs and Regional Health Organisations (RHOs) recognised by the AU.

A press release from the Tunisian Ministry of Health states that an application file has been officially submitted by its Minister Ali M'rabet to the African Union Commission. It is more precisely in the hands of Aggrey John Douglas Amabali, the head of the AU delegation present in Tunis, until Wednesday, April 13, 2022, to assess the readiness of the country to host the headquarters of WADA.

The issue of the permanent WADA headquarters is expected to be decided at the next AU summit in the second quarter of 2022.

African countries import more than 80% of their pharmaceutical products

WADA is the second agency in this field on the continent with the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Africa). Created by the AU with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015, their main role is as "early warning and response preparedness platforms to address any health emergency situation in a timely and effective manner" as well as "support to Member States in dealing with health emergencies" and "harmonisation of disease control policies and surveillance systems", according to their statutes.

The African continent accounts for less than 3% of the global pharmaceutical market with only 375 registered drug manufacturers, mainly in South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. These four states account for 70% of production. African countries import more than 80% of pharmaceutical products and materials.

Tunisia was one of the first countries on the continent to set up a pharmaceutical industry in the early 1990s. A study by the Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie (BIAT) dated 2017 indicates that "over the last fifteen years, the average annual growth rate of drug consumption is around 17%. Moreover, under the effect of Libyan demand, the consumption of medicines increased sharply in 2012 and 2013 when it recorded growth rates of 22% and 36%. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industrial fabric increased from three units in 1987 to thirty-four in 2011. According to 2013 figures, local production in this country covered 49% of the population's needs.

A $56 billion market

Ali M'Rabet met on Monday 11 April 2022 with Pierre Behnam, General Manager of the Pierre Fabre Laboratories Complex in Africa, the Middle East and Turkey and Khaled Laouiti, General Manager of the Pierre Fabre Laboratories Complex in North Africa. On the agenda of the discussions, "the cooperation between the French pharmaceutical giant, the Tunisian Ministry of Health and the affiliated public establishments and on the means to develop and diversify the common activity, as well as on the recourse to export to boost the partnership and benefit both parties", as underlined in a press release of the Tunisian Ministry of Health.

During this meeting, Ali M'Rabet estimated that "Tunisia could represent a centre and a pole for modern technologies and advanced pharmaceutical industries."
The Pierre Fabre group, 95% of whose production is located in France in seven factories, five of which are in the South-West, has a packaging unit for medicines destined for African markets in Tunisia.

According to a study published in April 2022 by Goldstein Market Intelligence, "Africa is the only pharmaceutical market where truly high growth is still achievable". According to this analysis, the value of the African pharmaceutical industry has grown from $5.5bn (€5.08bn) in 2007 to $28.56bn (€26.38bn) in 2017. Goldstein Market Intelligence forecasts that this market will reach between $56 and $70bn (€51.7-64.5bn) by 2030.

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