28 September 2021

Deputy Secretary-General, at Third Africa Industrial Development Decade Event, Urges Solutions to Strengthen Continent’s Health Systems, Self-Reliance on Pharmaceuticals

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message to the fourth High‑level Event on the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III) “Strengthening Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry – learning the lessons from COVID-19”, today:

Excellencies, it is often said that we must never waste a crisis.  The COVID‑19 pandemic is an opportunity for the world to recover better, together.  There is still time to do so, putting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back on track.

For Africa, recovering better also means strengthening the continent’s health systems, including its pharmaceutical industry.  Today’s high‑level event of the IDDA III puts a spotlight on this opportunity, which could be truly transformative in the continent’s trajectory towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturing of safe, effective and affordable pharmaceutical products in Africa was recognized as a priority for industry.  It was central to multilateral initiatives including IDDA III, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the African Union’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa, and the Action Plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa.

In addressing the health sector, one must recognize that infectious and non‑communicable diseases pose a growing threat to people’s health and to the prosperity of individuals, communities and societies.  It is critical therefore, to promote the development of a competitive and sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in Africa.  This will contribute to the continent’s progress towards improved health for all, and to its economic growth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerability of African countries to the disease response.  Africa relies on importing between 70 to 90 per cent of their vaccines, medicines and other health products.  Therefore, when supply chains broke down, Africa was the first to suffer the health and socioeconomic effects.  This must change.

We must strengthen policy and partnership frameworks for a continent‑wide health industry, sharing knowledge and technologies and facilitating investments.  That is the only way to ensure quality, access and affordability — and to safeguard the health and well‑being of all Africans.

The African Continental Free Trade Area opens new opportunities and creates a $250 billion pharmaceuticals market with the potential for further growth.  Building on calls for greater production and the strong political will of African Heads of State, the African Development Bank is also developing a 2030 Vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry.

Let us use the momentum of these initiatives to drive the production of affordable and high‑quality medicines for Africa.  Today’s high‑level event can offer critical ideas and solutions to help advance Africa’s self‑reliance in terms of pharmaceuticals, medicines and health‑care products.  In responding to the pandemic, Africa also has the impetus to prepare for the next pandemic through the lessons and opportunities of today.  You can count on the United Nations and our presence across Africa as you change the game.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.