The local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in East Africa is growing by the day with new investments and upgrades of existing plants being reported across the region. Local companies are setting up joint ventures with leading manufacturers from India and other parts of the world. Two manufacturers in the region have currently achieved World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification status for manufacture of selected antiretrovirals and antimalarials. Several others are progressing towards achieving certification from stringent regulatory authorities. 

Local companies’ portfolio of products covers most of the essential medicines requirement in the region and range from simple to advanced formulations. In total, there are seventy pharmaceutical manufacturing companies spread across the EAC Partner States involved in active production. 

Despite the advancement of the local pharmaceutical industry, a majority of the population in East Africa have scant information about locally produced medicines. It is not only the patients who have little information on what is available but also healthcare practitioners such as doctors and nurses. Accordingly, Jennifer Gache, Advisor for EAC-GIZ’s RIVA Project, notes “The Private sector is ready, but there is an information gap that quality of locally produced medicines has improved." This has negatively impacted the prescribing and use of these medicines in the region. As a result, the region continues to depend on imported medicines even for products which can be locally produced in good quality and adequate quantities. Dependence on imports for medicines has several implications, key among them being export of jobs to other markets and the risk of supply chain disruptions which can have serious public health consequences. The later was experienced recently during the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Federation of East African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (FEAPM), which is a regional apex association bringing together all national associations, seeks to reverse this situation. Over the years, the federation has built a basis for increased importance of the pharmaceutical sector at national and regional levels through a number of advocacy initiatives. At the regional level, the East African Community has prioritized the pharmaceutical sector in the EAC Regional Industrialization Policy and Strategy (2012-2032). 

It is against this background that FEAPM with the support of EAC-GIZ SEAMPEC’s Regional Industrial Value Addition (RIVA) project and Intraregional Trade Facility (IRTF) is running a Build East Africa Buy East Africa (BEABEA) Campaign for Medicines. The EAC is promoting BEABEA for jobs and wealth creation in the region. The main objective of the campaign is to increase the market share of locally produced, quality-assured medicines in the EAC region with the goal of contributing to the region’s stated intention of reversing its dependency on imported medicines from the current average of 70% to less than 50% within the next ten years.

Photo:  ©RIVA