By Okezie Nnadi
The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Maryam Katagum, has urged Nigerian pharmaceutical companies to ultilise 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) on Thursday in Lagos.
The Minister said the theme of the symposium was: “Promoting the African Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Industries Through Standardisation” was apt and right direction to go
She explained that following WHO’s declaration of the coronavirus as a global public health emergency and inability of some countries to get the COVID-19 vaccine, some countries have issued compulsory licences to enable them start manufacturing of vaccines for the next five years.
According to Katagum, 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 ultise the patent waivers in the Trade Related aspect on Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement to become vaccine productive.
In her words, “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 home-made solutions to some of the challenges confronting the continent.
According to her, the theme of symposium is very apt, in view of the fact that the world is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the need for development of the pharmaceutical industry on the continent in line with the laid down standards, became more apparent in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. According to her,
“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 the 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.
Also at the event,
the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Ray Ozolua, said that African pharmaceutical and medical needs secured device economy.
Ozolua, the guest speaker at the event, said that the most medical equipment were being imported into Nigeria.
He suggested that items such as bandages and dressing, gloves, facemasks, syringes, needles, diagnostic imaging among others should be manufactured locally.
He identified the barriers to local manufacturing of pharmaceutical/medical devices as limited availability of needed raw materials, expensive startup costs and poor international competitiveness
“The major problem of Africa and Nigeria in particular is lack of compliance with standard. “And if the government can strengthen standardization by providing adequate funding and facilitating healthy supply chain. “The quality of good and services will be assured, demand will increase and industries will gain,” he said.
The Director-General of SON, Malam Farouk Salim, speaking earlier, said that lack of adequate financing facilities was a major challenge to growth and development of pharmaceutical industry. In his speech of welcome, Salim said that most banks in the country found 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”.
He said as part of the celebrations of the 2022 African Day of Standardization, a quiz and essay competition was organised for secondary school students last month.
The Chief of Staff to the D-G SON, Prof. Kunle Olubayo, said that the major barrier to the excel of herbal medicine in Nigeria was its inability to meet the required standard.
Olubayo, therefore, urged practitioners of herbal medicine to always work and collaborate with SON, to certify and ensure that the herbal medicines meet the required standard.
He disclosed that SON was working assiduously with the Tradomedicine operator to facilitate the growth and development sector.
He said it would be one of the ways to diversified the economy.
“ We will ensure we compete with other climes to ensure we also thrive in our Tradomedicine. To create job and wealth,” Olubayo said.