A good morning to you all, and I wish to welcome you here in Kigali, and also those following online.

Since the inaugural meeting of the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing eight months ago, significant progress has been made.

I commend the Africa CDC, led by Dr John Nkengasong, for taking the lead in this historic initiative, with the support of the African Union Commission.

Other partners and leaders, many of whom are represented here today, have also made decisive contributions to advancing this agenda.

This joint effort has helped to prevent Africa from being, yet again, an afterthought. But we still have a lot of work to do.

Africa’s challenges during the Covid pandemic in securing timely access to tests, therapeutics, and vaccines, have served as a constant reminder that we need to be doing things for ourselves.

This is not a new problem. But a crisis of public health is literally a matter of life and death.

Africa must therefore build manufacturing and scientific capacity with a sense of urgency. We can and must do something new and different.

And when I say we need to do things for ourselves, that does not mean acting alone. Vaccine research and production is fundamentally a global enterprise.

We therefore have to work in partnership with each other, as Africa, and also with key partners around the world. That requires not only funding, but also, and even more importantly, trust.

One of the most important developments since our last meeting is the entry into force of the new African Medicines Agency. I commend the African Union Special Envoy, Dr Michel Sidibé, for his role in accelerating this process.

It is essential to maintain the momentum and fully establish this agency, without which Africa cannot independently authorize and regulate medicines and vaccines.

Producing vaccines on our continent is also an opportunity for trade and investment. That is why the presence here of the Secretary-General of the new African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat is so crucial.

Rwanda and Senegal have concluded agreements with BioNTech to begin the end-to-end production of mRNA vaccines as early as next year.

These doses cannot be distributed outside our continent, and there will be technology and knowledge transfer to African engineers and companies.

Through its mRNA Tech Transfer Hub in South Africa, the World Health Organization is working with South African companies to build a valuable knowledge base for our continent.

These and other initiatives underway in various countries are evidence of a strong momentum, which must be supported and sustained.

Because of this terrible pandemic, an opportunity has been created to fundamentally change the pharmaceutical production landscape on our continent.

This window will not stay open forever. Now is the time to act, decisively and quickly, together, as Africa, and also globally.

I wish you a successful conference and I thank you for your kind attention.