The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Maryam Katagum has urged Nigerian pharmaceutical companies to utilise the licensing provision of the TRIPS Waivers Agreement for COVID-19 to establish vaccine production plants for the country.
Katagum gave the advice at the 9th African Day of Standardisation 2022 Symposium, organised by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in collaboration with the African Organisations for Standardization (ARSO) in Lagos.
With the theme: “Promoting the African Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Industries Through Standardisation”, the Minister explained that following WHO’s declaration of the coronavirus as a global public health emergency and the inability of some countries to get the COVID-19 vaccine, some countries have issued compulsory licences to enable them to start manufacturing of vaccines within the next five years.
According to her, both the public and private pharmaceutical companies should take advantage of the opportunity to ensure that Nigeria starts production of vaccines not only for COVID-19 but for other infectious diseases in case of future pandemics.
“Nigeria should utilise the patent waivers in the Trade Related aspect on Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement to become vaccine productive.
“The TRIPS Waivers Agreement for COVID-19 licensed African countries including Nigeria to start production of vaccines for the next five years. Five years is a very short time to come by; therefore, pharmacists should scale up efforts in this regard,” she said.
The minister also called on Africa and Africans to pay attention to promoting homemade solutions to some of the challenges confronting the continent.
She said the need for the development of the pharmaceutical industry on the continent in line with the laid down standards, became more apparent in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is imperative to note that the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area has turned our continent into one huge market and provided us with a competitive edge in trading with other continents.
“The need to promote intra-African trade and commerce becomes even more compelling in order not only to take optimum advantage of the huge African Market but to position the continent against future pandemics,” Katagum said.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Ray Ozolua, said that the African pharmaceutical and medical devices economy lacked security, as 80 per cent of its pharmaceutical needs were being imported.
Ozolua, the guest speaker at the event, said that the least medical equipment was imported into Nigeria including bandages and dressing, gloves, facemasks, syringes and needles and diagnostic imaging among others.
He identified the barriers to local manufacturing of pharmaceutical/medical devices as limited availability of needed raw materials, expensive start-up costs and poor international competitiveness
Earlier, the Director-General of SON, Malam Farouk Salim, said that the lack of adequate financing facilities was a major challenge to the growth and development of the pharmaceutical industry.
Salim said that most banks in the country find it difficult to finance pharmaceutical investments, which were often capital-intensive projects.
He said: “Obviously, boosting local production in the pharmaceutical industries will save and strengthen African economies.
“It will also support local jobs creation, save import expenditure while triggering industrialisation, manufacturing, intra-African trade and sustainable development in the continent, but financing facilities remain the major challenge”.