Amref Health Africa CEO urges shift in mindset to prioritize localization

Some African health experts have raised questions about the venue of the launch of the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator (AVMA) and Gavi’s Investment Opportunity for 2026-2030 scheduled for 20 June 2024.

A critical question asked was why  an initiative focused on Africa’s vaccine manufacturing was to be launched in Paris rather than on the African continent

 While France’s co-hosting alongside the African Union and Gavi is well-intentioned, the decision to hold the launch in Paris represents a significant missed opportunity to localize the vital initiative within Africa.

“Africa is striving to enhance its vaccine manufacturing capabilities, and hosting the launch on African soil would be a powerful symbol of the continent’s ownership and leadership in the initiative. It would promote localization and underscore its commitment and proactive stance, resonating globally and sending a clear message that Africa is not merely a beneficiary but a leader in its health future,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, during the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

“We have to realize that the community is where the power is based. To serve the communities better, we must shift our mindset and give up our power. That is the challenge of localization: surrendering power makes us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable,” he added.

Launching the AVMA in Africa would facilitate greater local engagement from stakeholders across the continent, including governments, health officials, manufacturers, scientists, civil society organizations, and the private sector. By being more accessible, it would encourage robust discussions and collaborations directly relevant to Africa’s unique challenges and opportunities.

Such discussions would be driven by stronger local media coverage, raising awareness, generating greater public interest within the continent, and building momentum and public support for the initiative. This would transform the narrative towards African innovation and capability in addressing public health challenges, promoting social accountability and inspiring pride among African communities.

Additionally, the launch would be an excellent opportunity to further mobilize African nations to support the Africa Medicines Agency (AMA), which plays a pivotal role in creating an enabling environment for vaccine manufacturing by providing regulatory oversight, facilitating capacity building, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders.

Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capability is rapidly advancing, marked by significant milestones and robust initiatives. South Africa’s Biovac Institute partners with global pharmaceutical companies to produce and distribute vaccines, while the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, is renowned for its yellow fever vaccine production. Egypt’s Vacsera is also expanding its facilities to increase vaccine production capacity. These local initiatives exemplify Africa’s commitment to build a resilient, self-sufficient vaccine supply chain, ensuring better health outcomes and fostering economic growth across the continent.

An African venue for the launch would provide an ideal platform to showcase the existing hubs and potential local manufacturing capacities, building confidence among international partners and investors in Africa’s ability to scale up vaccine production. Highlighting local facilities and innovations would demonstrate that Africa is ready and capable of handling such a critical initiative, fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment.

While logistical and diplomatic considerations may drive the decision to launch the AVMA in Paris, it misses a crucial opportunity to strengthen localization.

 By hosting the launch in Africa, organizers would reinforce the continent’s ownership, facilitate greater local engagement, showcase capacity, and foster trust and collaboration. This alignment with the AVMA’s objectives would ensure its impact is deeply rooted in the context it aims to serve.

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