Africa’s Island States Collaborate to Purchase Vaccines and Medicines

African Small Island Developing States agree to collectively purchase vaccines and medicines
young girl from one of the island state

The ministers of health from (7) African island states have signed an agreement to jointly procure drugs and vaccines in a bid to improve quality and access to medicines and other health products, announced the World Health Organization’s Africa Region.

The cost of drugs and medical supplies is one of the major challenges Africa’s Small Island States face due to the modest size of the populations. 

Joint procurement is the ultimate model of intercountry collaboration aimed at improving procurement efficiency, says the WHO.

The ministers from Cabo Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe and Seychelles that form the Small Island Developing States signed the Pooled Procurement agreement on September 29, 2020, to take advantage of economies of scale and collective bargaining.

These nations comprise an archipelago containing 115 islands.

The WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, and the Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, joined the ministers in the virtual signing ceremony.

Dr. Moeti noted that ‘the efforts made so far in establishing the joint procurement program had already increased the attractiveness of the pharmaceutical market of the Small Island Developing States.’

“By creating a larger stream of demand, we can look forward to better access to quality and competitively-priced medicines. The high cost of medicines is one of the major barriers many countries in our region face in providing affordable health care of good standard. Pooling our resources is one way of overcoming this challenge,” added Dr. Moeti.

As the African region faces the double burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, it is essential that countries have systems in place for the timely procurement of supplies at a reasonable cost and in sufficient quantities to address treatment needs and efficiently complement important investments in health promotion, says the WHO.

Plans to set up the joint procurement initiative began in 2017 in Seychelles during a meeting of health ministers from Small Island Developing States who expressed commitment to implement the program, particularly for medicines for non-communicable diseases. 

The countries of Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar joined later.

“We must admit that it has been a long and tedious effort, and I commend the contributions of past and present Ministers and their teams for the dedication in creating an enabling environment for this mechanism to be launched,” concluded Dr. Moeti.

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