In eastern Algeria, in the province of Constantine, a production line has started manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. The result of a joint venture between the Chinese Sinovac Biotech and the Algerian pharmaceutical group Saidal, it should produce 1 million doses in October, to increase to 5 million doses per month by January. The vaccine manufacturing project is touted as a milestone in Algerian-Chinese relations, after China signed a contract to supply 15 million doses, becoming Algeria’s largest vaccine supplier.
Earlier this year, in April, the Chinese company Sinovac signed another agreement with the Egyptian holding company for biologics and vaccines (VACSERA) to manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine. In three months, in July 2021, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced that he had produced one million doses. With plans to manufacture a billion a year, Egypt could become the region’s largest vaccine producer.
Likewise, the Moroccan pharmaceutical company Sothema has signed an agreement with the Chinese Sinopharm to produce 5 million doses per month.
The implications of Beijing’s move from donating vaccine vials to setting up production on the mainland are hard to ignore, especially for Quad executives.
They could draw inspiration from the African Union and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recently launched the African Vaccine Manufacturing Partnerships (VAMP) framework calling on global partners to increase the production in Africa. African leaders have pledged to create a national vaccine industry, with the goal of increasing the share of global vaccines made in Africa from 1% in 2021 to 60% in 2040. This is a critical development, and international partners have many opportunities to support Africa’s efforts.
This is particularly relevant for the Quad, as two of its members, the United States and India, are home to some of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world. In contrast, six African countries currently have or plan to set up a total of just 12 COVID-19 vaccine production facilities. There are therefore strong arguments to be made for Quad countries to allow production of their COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, based on three important arguments.
First, the Quad has already established the “Quad Vaccine Partnership” with commitments to “donate more than 1.2 billion doses worldwide of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine”. The Sept. 24 joint statement from Quad executives described the scope of the new “Quad Vaccine Expert Group,” recognized the global supply gap and the need to secure supply chains, and underscored the goal. to finance additional production in India, with roadmaps to support Indo-Pacific countries with procurement, preparation and deployments. By broadening its vision to also include Africa, the cluster could have an immediate impact.
Of course, the success of the Quad in Africa in the post-pandemic era depends on overcoming several differences within the strategic grouping. Skeptics pointed to the Quad’s “fundamental contradictions and deliberate ambiguity”, due to the many factors that could potentially hamper effective cooperation – from different perceptions of threats, strategic priorities and constitutional imperatives to cultural dissimilarities and even relationships. bilateral between New Delhi. and Washington. Others, however, are more optimistic about the Quad’s ability to shape the new world order and serve as an effective force for public goods.
Prioritizing the manufacture of vaccines in Africa would not only underscore the non-military nature of the consortium, but also strengthen its credibility. It would be an important collective effort as the individual Quad countries reconfigure their relationships with various African countries. Experts called on the United States to demonstrate its commitment to regional priorities belonging to Africa; for Japan to take a more pragmatic approach and build a solid and long-term investment base in Africa; for Australia to recalibrate its strategy towards the continent of being “episodic with geostrategic indeterminacy”; and for India to leverage its renewed momentum in African diplomacy with more layered engagement. Supporting Africa’s recovery from the pandemic offers a unique opportunity for the Quad to collectively present themselves as viable partners in development.
Second, the establishment of joint production hubs could be a tangible deliverable, leveraging each country’s strengths. The United States and its EU partners are already building a vaccine manufacturing plant in Senegal, and the United States’ International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is working with the World Bank Group, Germany and the United States. France to provide financial packages to pharmaceutical companies in South Africa, to prepare, finish, fill and package doses of Janssen (a Johnson & Johnson company) vaccines. Pfizer also has a “fill and finish” agreement with Biovac Institute in South Africa, with ingredients imported from Europe.
According to Emmanuel Mujuru, president of the Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations, beyond building facilities and making political announcements, vaccine production in Africa requires significant long-term funding, capacity building for research, the provision of regulatory support and the engagement of key government actors to purchase vaccine doses. In addition, it will also require building logistics and data systems as well as strong supply chains, including facilities to store, transport and package vaccines. This means that there are several opportunities in related industries along the pharmaceutical value chain that the Quad can support.
Third, it makes sense for pharmaceutical companies in Quad countries looking to expand overseas to partner with African companies and use the many incentives offered by different African governments to strengthen their manufacturing ecosystems in accord. with the pharmaceutical manufacturing plan for Africa. This is especially true as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), launched earlier this year, now connects more than a billion people and markets in 54 countries, eliminating long-standing concerns about a fragmented market. As the largest free trade area in the world, it is also removing tariffs, reducing trade costs, increasing exports and accelerating manufacturing, which is expected to reach $ 1 trillion in value by 2025, with the potential to create 14 million jobs.
Despite the magnitude of the opportunities, several factors could deter investors. One concern is that after injecting funds to build and expand manufacturing capacity, demand for the COVID-19 vaccine could potentially stop in a few years. While there have been examples of how production facilities have been reallocated to make COVID-19 vaccines – which means the reverse is also a possibility – upfront spending at risk might not be a viable option for many investors.
In addition, the issue of waivers of patent rights also persists. Some researchers meanwhile suggest a public-private partnership (PPP) approach. According to them, an alternative and sustainable solution to achieve the global immunization goals is to sign PPPs between pharmaceutical companies and government ministries, funded by access to capital markets through “impact bonds”. Essentially, this means that public sector entities are contractually and legally expected to pay investors as they achieve their goals, and therefore push the added responsibility of investors to be successful.
As the Quad strives to deepen cooperation in critical areas, it is imperative not to take a zero-sum approach. Mitigating the scale of the global suffering inflicted by COVID-19 will require a concerted effort. However, one of the many areas that could benefit from collective and concrete action is to support African actors in strengthening their health systems and improving their access to vaccines. As multiple action plans are developed and decisions are made to achieve this goal, increasing vaccine manufacturing in Africa must be an urgent priority for the Quad.