I want to begin by thanking the African Union Commission, led by Chairperson Moussa, and Africa CDC, for convening this timely conference.
Vaccine equity cannot be guaranteed by goodwill alone, as we have seen many examples to convince all of us. Africa needs to expand production capacity for vaccines and other essential medical products. I can’t agree more with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In line with our agenda of increasing domestic health financing, it is important for Africa to forge strategic public-private partnerships for vaccine manufacturing on our continent.
Let me add here, Excellencies, that in the past few weeks and months, I had the opportunity to initiate contacts with different manufacturers of vaccines, specifically focusing on the Messenger RNA (mRNA) technique used by Moderna and Pfizer. We have been involved in discussions and I have briefed a few colleagues on our continent, but we want to take this forward by discussing it with others.
There is a company that is capable of this technique, just as Moderna and Pfizer have been doing, that is ready and willing. I will brief those responsible very soon. I am sorry that I have not done that before we had this discussion.
But the whole idea is how we can have this type of capability on our continent, which really complements other ways like the adenovirus method, in the vaccines used by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Also South Africa, with Aspen, has that capability.
But I think the future is also about mRNA and I think in the audience there are people even better informed than myself. I think complementarity is better achieved if we focus on that.
And therefore, for Africa to move from being very sorry for ourselves, which is the case today — and I think no one single person takes the blame for that — but we have to take the blame for that, and move from what we know has not worked well for Africa to something we can do, using the examples President Ramaphosa mentioned, by partnering with these industries.
The African Continental Free Trade Area makes these investments even more attractive. The Africa Medicines Agency Treaty is a critical part of the institutional framework, and I urge African member states to ratify this — as many as we can have ratify — as soon as possible.
I also commend Chairperson Moussa for naming a Special Envoy for the Africa Medicines Agency, Dr Michel Sidibé.
Vaccine production goes hand in hand with increased investments in domestic health systems, as well as building an efficient and autonomous Africa CDC, which I think is the way we are headed.
Rwanda is ready to play a role in this effort, together with other member states and partners.
On this note, I thank you very much for your kind attention