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Strengthening Africa’s pharmaceutical industry: learning the lessons from COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted Africa´s vulnerability due to its reliance on imports for most vaccines, medicines and other health product needs. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that Africa imports about 94% of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs from outside the continent at an annual cost of US$16bn.

High-level representatives of governments, development finance institutions and UN agencies, together with representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia, met virtually today on the margins of the 76th UN General Assembly to explore innovative solutions to the systemic barriers hindering development of the continent´s health industries and to discuss ways to strengthen Africa’s pharmaceutical industry.

The event was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), AfroChampions, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank). The event took place in the framework of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III).

In his opening remarks, LI Yong, Director General of UNIDO, said, “The African Continental Free Trade Area provides opportunities for the development of a continental health industry, while we need to continue to harness the strengths of different stakeholders and put in place robust partnerships.”

In a video message, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, stressed the importance of IDDA III and noted that inclusive and sustainable industrial development is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Africa.

In his video message, Gerd Müller, Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, emphasized that three billion COVID-19 vaccines have been produced worldwide and need to be distributed fairly. He further mentioned that “Germany is supporting COVAX and the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator but also investing in cooperation with countries like South Africa, Senegal and Ghana to establish their own vaccine production facilities.”

Noting that investment is crucial for the promotion of local pharmaceuticals manufacturing in the continent, Vera Songwe, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of UNECA, acknowledged the lack of adequate funding within Africa as one of the continent’s enduring challenges.

Cristina Duarte, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General, opined that the coronavirus offers an opportunity for Africa to change its paradigm from being heavily dependent on imports to being self-reliant.

Ambassador Albert M. Muchanga, the African Union Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining, remarked that the IDDA III framework is crucial in supporting Africa meet its pharmaceutical needs and achieving the goals set in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA).

On behalf of Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB President, Dr. Abdu Mukhtar said that support from development financial institutions together with the private sector is crucial in supporting Africa’s industrial and sustainable development and countries need to be supported to expand their fiscal space during the ongoing pandemic.

Speaking on behalf of Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, AUDA-NEPAD’s CEO, Jennifer Chiriga noted that development partners need to actively promote human resource capacity and knowledge for the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector which requires highly skilled personnel.

 AfroChampions Co-Chair, Paulo Gomez, remarked that public-private partnerships need to be strengthened to promote structural transformation on the continent.

Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General for International Partnerships at the European Commission, remarked that the European Union’s €1bn Team Europe initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa, will help create an enabling environment for local vaccines manufacturing in the continent and tackle barriers on both supply and demand sides.

Prof. Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organization, stressed that the pandemic presents the opportunity to reflect on the continuing challenges Africa continues to face in trying to improve the health of its population. “Governments and stakeholders must therefore resolve to strengthen national health systems and ensure that vaccines are readily available for the population”, he highlighted.

In her contribution to the first session, the President of Ethiopia, Her Excellency Sahle-Work Zewde emphasized the support of her Government for the implementation of the Decade and reaffirmed the crucial role of local manufacturing in its development efforts.

Speaking on behalf of His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, Her Excellency Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development opined that “to rebuild the health sector and boost the economy requires strong partnerships such as the PCP initiative, to lock in the investments and the FDI that will facilitate economies to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels”.

His Excellency Zely Randriamanantany, Minister of Public Health, touched on the importance of the continent’s demographic growth and the need to enhance the industrial skills and knowledge of the bulging youth population, in his statement on behalf of His Excellency Andry Rajoelina, President of Madagascar.

All speakers agreed that market consolidation, strong regulatory oversight, investments in the pharmaceutical sector and new technology (4IR) are of utmost importance to unlock Africa’s full manufacturing potential.

The event was capped by a signing ceremony of the Joint Declaration for the implementation of the Kenya Self-Starter Programme for Country Partnership, between the UNIDO DG and President Kenyatta.

In conclusion, participants acknowledged the need to expedite and support local production of pharmaceuticals and the health industry in Africa, as well as the importance of IDDA III and other frameworks such as the AfCFTA, and their potential impact to boost the manufacturing and trading of pharmaceuticals on the continent. They also called for inclusive and solution-oriented approaches to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

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The importance of Iran’s membership in the SCO

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The members of Majlis (the Parliament) have approved the emergency of the plan of Iran’s commitments to achieve the position of a member state in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), – informs IRNA from Tehran.

The  emergency plan was endorsed with 161 votes in favor, two against, and three abstentions.

Ali Adyani, the deputy vice president for parliamentary affairs, said that the plan was proposed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was endorsed by the cabinet members, and sent to parliament to become law.

According to the official, Iran’s membership in the SCO is of great importance in terms of economic, social, and international affairs particularly because the opportunity would help the Islamic Republic get rid of illegal sanctions and enhance economic diplomacy.

Iran has been an observer of the SCO since 2005. Then, President Ebrahim Raisi called for full membership of the Islamic country in the organization in its last summer summit in Tajikistan.

The legislators have accepted to speed up scrutinizing the plan. Earlier, the Iranian parliament had endorsed the plan of accession of the Islamic Republic to the SCO.

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Sabah: ‘The Americans have deceived themselves, the Europeans and Ukraine’

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The US is repeating the same mistakes as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Now – in Ukraine. So it seems inevitable that Washington will face another setback as a result of its ideological obsession, – writes prominent Turkish observer Bercan Tutar at “Sabah” newspaper.

Having suffered a complete failure in the Middle East wars, the Americans sent to Ukraine not only their ineffective weapons, but also their inadequate thoughts and strategies. But no matter what they do, their chances of defeating Russia are very slim.

The 330th day of the war, which began on February 24, 2022, has already been completed. After a short retreat, Russia began redeployment. However, the fact that Russia abandoned the siege of Kyiv and focused on control over Russian-speaking regions led Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and the United States to false conclusions.

Encouraged by Russia’s cautious military actions, the United States applied its strategy in the war on terrorism in Ukraine and. According to American experts, the current US administration is following the deadly tracks of previous military propaganda in Ukraine, which proved unsuccessful in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While Russia is pursuing a military strategy that prioritizes its political goals, we see that the US is lacking in both military and political leadership. As soon as the war in Ukraine began, the first goal of the US was to rally its NATO allies against the Russian invasion. It was a smart strategy and it worked.

However, when the US reached the first target, a further one only increased its expectations. Russia was asked to leave not only Donetsk and Lugansk (Donbass), but also Crimea. Even further, the United States began to voice maximalist demands, such as regime change in Moscow. But it is absolutely clear that these demands can arise only in conditions of a total world war.

As a result, American fantasies lead Washington to attempt strategic suicide. The Americans have deceived themselves, the Europeans and Ukraine.

Russian leader Putin said on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the breaking of the blockade of Leningrad: “We tolerated it for a long time and tried to come to an agreement. As it has recently turned out, they were messing around with us; they were lying to us. This was not the first time this has happened to us. Yet we did everything in our power to settle the problem peacefully. It has become obvious now that it was an inherently impossible mission; the enemy was only preparing to bring this conflict to the hot phase. As I have said, there was no other way than to do what we are doing now.”

In short, some geopolitical officials in the US have dragged Zelensky into a ‘no-win war’ against a nuclear-armed Russia.

Now the world is focused on two options:

– either the US and its allies will perform a ‘miracle’ in Ukraine;

– or the Russians will crush Ukraine and then break the back of the NATO alliance.

Thus, the US strategic position in Europe will come to an end and a new world order will be born, perhaps with several centers of power outside of America.

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War games will take place off Durban between South Africa, China and Russia

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South Africa’s government has finally shown its colours by inviting Russia and China for war games next month, London’s ‘Daily Mail’ writes with indignation and indignation.

SA President Cyril Ramaphosa has ditched his supposed ‘neutrality’ to the war by hosting the naval drills off the country’s east coast near Durban and Richards Bay from February 17 to 27. The move is the strongest indication yet of the strengthening relationship between South Africa, and the anti-West authoritarian regimes of China and Russia.

The drills will take place around the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and bring more focus on the refusal of South Africa – a leading voice on its continent – to side with the West and condemn Russia’s actions. The South African government said last year it had adopted a neutral stance over Ukraine and called for dialogue and diplomacy.

But the upcoming naval drills have led the country’s main opposition party to accuse the government of effectively siding with Russia.

But the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which incorporates all of its armed forces, said next month’s naval exercise would ‘strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China’. The aim of the drills was ‘sharing operational skills and knowledge’, the SANDF said.

The three countries also conducted a similar naval exercise in 2019 in Cape Town, while Russia and China held joint naval drills in the East China Sea last month.

The United States and European Union had hoped South Africa would support the international condemnation of Russia and act as a leader for other nations in Africa. But, South Africa appealed to be one of several African countries to ‘abstain’ in a United Nations vote last year condemning Russia’s special military operation.

South Africa and Russia share a long history, after the Soviet Union gave support to the ANC in its fight to bring down apartheid, the regime of repression against the country’s black majority, writes London newspaper. (And we should remember, how the British destroyed the Boers’ Transvaal and the Orange Republic of the at the beginning of the 20th century, and planted the apartheid regime here).

Apartheid ended in 1994 when the ANC won the first democratic elections in South Africa and Nelson Mandela became president.

South Africa is also a member of BRICS, a bloc of emerging economies, alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China.

South Africa’s obligations with respect to sanctions relate only to those that are specifically adopted by the United Nations. Currently, there are no UN-imposed sanctions on the particular individual, they say in Pretoria.

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