By Christabel Ligami

African Ministers of Health, Finance and Trade, experts and development partners have adopted an approach towards transitioning the Pharmaceutical Initiative (Pharma Initiative) into the start-up Phase of the African Pooled Procurement Mechanism (APPM).

This ensures the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)-anchored initiative’s continuity and keeps the momentum in advancing healthcare access, kick-starting industrialization, and ensuring economic and health security on the continent.

In their recommendations drawn from the conclusion of the three-day meeting in Mombasa, Kenya, the ministers agreed that the APPM, led by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) with support of Afreximbank and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) will facilitate the seamless transition of the initiative into the startup phase of the APPM.

“ECA, Africa CDC and Afreximbank will also initiate pooled procurement of the products already selected under the Pharma Initiative, gradually expanding to include more products and manufacturers,” read the ministers’ resolution.

African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), they said, will accelerate the operationalization of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) to enhance access to quality, safe, and affordable medical products across the continent.

“An African Pooled Procurement Mechanism (APPM) presents an opportunity for the continent to collectively work towards lowering the cost of pharmaceutical products, and harmonize regulations that will enhance quality and safe medical supplies for the continent,” Susan Nakhumicha, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health at the meeting.

She said that Africa continues to face the challenges of delivery of quality and affordable products, a major obstacle making healthcare inaccessible for millions across the continent. There is, therefore, a need to address the high cost of medicines, commodities and other health-related products for the continent to deliver on the promise of universal health coverage.

Echoing her remarks, Hanan Morsy, ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist, said as a continent with 1.4 billion people, 18% of the world’s population, it is imperative for Africa to learn from the vulnerabilities exposed by recent health emergencies, the evolving burden of pandemics; as well as the linkages that need to be made to address the challenges preventing the attainment of sustainable and inclusive development in Africa

Bernard Valentin, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Seychelles highlighted the need to minimize the risk associated with falsified and substandard medicines in the African market and ensure quality, safe and affordable medicine and medical devices in Africa.

The APPM is the result of a decision of the African Union Summit, where the Heads of State and Government recognized the need to establish the pooled procurement mechanism under the leadership of Africa CDC and endorsed the AMSP as the platform for the mechanism.

The goal of operationalizing pooled procurement is to improve the affordability, availability, and equitable access to essential medical supplies across the continent. It also shapes the market, facilitates local production, creates jobs, and transforms African economies.

Dr. Abebe  Bayih, the Acting Coordinator of the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) said the APPM has a unique value proposition of locally manufactured health products and technologies that meet global standards. Adding a strong collective bargaining power to this value proposition would help African countries achieve supply security and reduced costs. ​

​“Implementation of the majority of the core functions in the start-up phase will be done in cooperation with partners,” he said, adding that the APPM’s capabilities will be established over time, with a clear line of sight towards the mature stage.

Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division at ECA said APPM will provide a collaborating framework of common regulatory and quality standards to ensure that pharmaceutical drugs and products are effective, affordable, and safe.

“Linking this health initiative to AfCFTA and AMA presents great opportunities with a potential to change lives, reduce poverty, and contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic development for the continent,” said Karingi.

He noted that implementation of the Pharma Initiative is geared towards fostering inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development through a single market of approximately 1.4 billion African people who continually face disproportionate impacts of diseases and high costs of importation of critical life-saving health products.

Kwabena Ayirebi, Director, Banking Operations at Afreximbank, emphasized the importance of risk assessment and foreign currency integration in financing African healthcare.

He reaffirmed the bank’s willingness to support the initiative and move quickly to ensure its success in the area of financing and any other immediate implementation needs.

The three-day meeting is jointly organized by ECA, Africa CDC, AUDA-NEPAD and partners.