Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (WAPMA), comprising ECOWAS and EMOA member states that total 15 countries and a population of about 340m people. The country stands with Senegal today at the forefront of pharmaceuticals production in the French-speaking West African world, while Ghana and Nigeria represent the pharmaceuticals production powerhouses in the region’s English-speaking countries.
According to Assane Coulibaly, former WAPMA vice-president and current Asdor Pharma director, “Less than 25% of WAPMA needs are serviced by local production. Moreover, already four Nigerian firms out of 250 WAPMA producers are compliant with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) good manufacturing practice (GMP) guidelines, meaning 3% to 4% of regional needs served by locally produced, GMP-compliant products.” There are 20 pharmaceutical manufacturers that are engaged in the GMP roadmap initiated by the WHO, the West African Health Organisation, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/ AIDS and the UN Industrial Development Organisation.
There is clearly a large margin for improvement in local production capacities, especially in regards to GMP-compliant local production. These improvements would boost each country’s ability to control and ultimately guarantee better pharmaceutical quality at the manufacturing stage. Côte d’Ivoire has been struggling for some time with the proliferation of cheaper, imported, counterfeit medication, colloquially know as “street drugs”. In addition to existing efforts, promoting local production could be a way of addressing this issue more permanently and making drugs safer.
For Côte d’Ivoire and other African Union member states, promoting local pharmaceutical production is not only a better way of ensuring pharmaceutical product quality, but also a path towards decreasing medication costs, contributing to economic development through technology transfers, and increasing human and capital investments in local markets.“Pharmaceutical product importers to the region are aware of this nascent development and, as a result, are starting to look at their options, which could be direct or indirect investments through local partners,” Coulibaly told OBG. “Some local producers are already deploying development plans aimed at boosting local pharmaceutical production in the near future. For instance, roughly 50% of local pharmaceutical manufacturer CIPHARM’s production is exported, with the remainder satisfying about 2.5% of local demand. It is only a matter of time before either Asian and European investors or local investors and producers take over West African local pharmaceutical production. In French-speaking West African countries, around 55% of pharmaceutical products are generic medications, 80% of which are imported from Asia, in particular from China and India.”
The elaboration of a sector-specific investment code is often mentioned as a helpful measure, including key initiatives such as stimulating foreign direct investment in local production, restricting imports temporarily and adopting greater value-added tax and tax exonerations. Furthermore, the enforcement of WHO standards at the local level would reinforce product quality control, helping to fight the distribution of illegal and counterfeit medication in local markets, which, according to Coulibaly, can range from 15% to 75% in some African markets.
Local pharmaceutical production accommodates a small part of West African demand for medication. There is a visible move towards addressing the pharmaceuticals gap in the region. Local producers are beginning to implement production boosting plans and foreign investors are starting to look at their production options in Côte d’Ivoire. Government action could facilitate their path, ultimately contributing to the reduction of medication costs and the improvement of health service access, as well as economic growth.
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