By Gift Briton

The need to expand local manufacturing of health products dominated discussions as the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)’s annual conference kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

In her opening remarks at the 14th KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health (KASH) conference, Dr. Susan Nakhumicha, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, noted that the government has put in place strategies to achieve universal healthcare access including mechanisms to domestically manufacture health products and expand their uptake.

“As a country, we import more than 90% of health products. Yet we can manufacture these products here. So, what do we lose when we import health products? We have to pay for those products in dollars, it takes quite a long time for those products to reach the country, and we lose jobs for our people,” she said.

“We lost several people during COVID-19 because we did not have the vaccines on time. We still import simple products like paracetamol and water for injection yet they can be manufactured in Kenya.  Therefore, we are focusing on local manufacturing to ensure that we can take care of our citizens.”

Kenya has set a target to manufacture locally at least half of the health products used in the country by 2026. In this regard, she noted that the Kenya Medical Supply Agency (KEMSA) has been directed to ensure that all health products are sourced domestically and to only import what is not available.

Dr. Susan Nakhumicha

“We also want to encourage Kenyans to increase the uptake of locally produced products. We have to demystify this thinking that locally produced health products may be poor quality. Kenyans need to understand that we have locally manufactured products that are of good quality and by supporting locally manufactured products, we are also creating employment for many Kenyans,” Dr. Nakhumicha said.

“Less than 20% of health products available in Kenya are produced locally. Shockingly, some of the products manufactured locally are not being consumed in Kenya yet other countries are consuming them.”

Kenya’s health expenditure is KShs. 550 billion per year yet a huge percentage of this money would be ploughed back into the economy if the country sourced health products locally.

“We would like to encourage companies that are able and willing to set up manufacturing in Kenya that we are ripe for business, we have a huge potential, we have human capital, and we are strategically placed to supply the whole of Africa,” she urged.

Dr. Rajnikant Vola, Chief Executive Officer for Revital Healthcare, shared similar sentiments, underscoring the power of local manufacturing of innovative health products and technologies for universal health coverage.

He encouraged collaboration between the government and private sector to develop lifesaving innovations to protect its population.

Reaffirming KEMRI’s unwavering commitment to product development, and innovative technologies to enhance healthcare outcomes, the institution’s Acting Director General, Elijah Songok said: “Our partnership with the ministry, local manufacturers, diverse health research institutions and the private sector aims to establish an ecosystem that fosters scientific and economic growth in Health Products and Technologies (HPT).”

Under the theme: Harnessing Biomedical Research Innovations and Big Data for Health System Resilience, Local Manufacturing and Commercialization, the KASH conference will run through to February 16th.