Rwanda has signed a Rwf3.6 billion ($3.6 million) partnership with the European Union to help upgrade the country’s laboratory capacity to help it attract investors to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines.
The funds will be used to strengthen the Foods and Drugs Authority’s quality control for medical products, to enable the regulator acquire necessary certification from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“What we signed is a step to revamp and also strengthen the Rwanda Foods and Drugs Authority. The money we will receive from the EU will support the acquisition of laboratory equipment to make it a modern facility that will enable Rwanda to get a WHO certification,” Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board told CNBC Africa on Thursday.
“The WHO certification we need for this will also build the confidence of investors who want to produce vaccines. They (investors) will be able to trust the regulatory capacity we want to strengthen with this funding.”
Rwanda plans to start manufacturing coronavirus vaccines using mRNA technology after it secured international backing to build local capacity in the coming months.
Last week, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told the Qatar Economic Forum that the negotiations with partners to manufacture vaccines locally have advanced and the process will start “in a few months.”
He was speaking shortly after Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa were announced as potential candidates for hosting Africa’s regional Covid-19 vaccines production hubs.
“For Rwanda, in particular, we have partnered with some industries that are specialising in mRNA technology. So, we have already discussed that technology with people who will help with financing and I think in a few months we should hear a different story,” President Kagame said.
Africa, President Kagame added, has to be an equal partner with the rest of the world and manufacture vaccines as the continent continues to grapple with a blockage on supplies.
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across Africa has been marred by delays, scarcity, and uncertainty. African countries are waiting for more shipments of doses, as some grapple with spikes in caseloads and overwhelmed health systems. But rigid intellectual property rights and national export restrictions around vaccines and the inputs needed to produce them have led to global shortages in supplies.
In response to calls from health and economic experts across the continent to increase local capacity to manufacture vaccines to bolster Africa’s health security, the African Union launched the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing.
Our governments need to step forward and take the initiative, says Donald Kaberuka, African Union special envoy on COVID-19. “What we have seen during this crisis is that international solidarity is very fickle. It is very volatile.”