Rwanda: What it means for Rwanda to host the African Medicines Agency
Rwanda is set to host the headquarters of the African Medicines Agency (AMR), the African Union announced last Friday.
The decision was taken during the meeting of the AU Executive Council during the fourth biannual coordination meeting of the African Union which has just ended in Lusaka.
Represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda was selected from a final group of eight countries that had expressed interest in hosting the agency’s headquarters.
The agency becomes the AU’s second specialized health agency after the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), based in Addis Ababa.
“Glad that the AU Executive Council meeting in Lusaka has just voted Rwanda to host the African Medicines Agency (AMA). Thank you to all Member States who have supported Rwanda,” commented Biruta.
The development comes more than a decade after the idea of AMA was broached.
However, the race to set up the agency comes after the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the continent’s reliance on imported vaccines and other pharmaceuticals.
For example, just over 5% of medicines and 1% of vaccines consumed by the population of 1.2 billion people are produced locally, according to AU reports.
Equally important is the increased risk of epidemics in the region and globally, making access to medical products as well as a harmonized regulatory environment a priority in African countries.
Limited resources contribute to poor regulatory outcomes across the continent.
Experts say WADA can help Africa move from existing low levels of regulatory capacity to a harmonized regional approach.
The World Health Organization estimates that only seven percent of African countries had moderate drug regulatory capacity and more than 90 percent had minimal or no capacity.
General resource shortages also contribute to the highest regional prevalence of substandard and falsified medicines.
By supporting capacity building and harmonizing standards and processes, WADA can help strengthen medicines regulation despite resource constraints.
Big blow for Rwanda
According to Zachee Iyakaremye, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, the agency should support the growth of local pharmaceutical production, assess medical products for the treatment of priority diseases determined by the AU and regularly inspect, coordinate and share information on products. which are authorized for sale.
“It has various benefits for the continent but also for our market, including promoting coordination of national and regional regulatory efforts and also supporting local manufacturing and pharma.”
Iyakaremye also pointed out that this will further strengthen Rwanda’s action against substandard and falsified medicines.
WADA will also support the creation of an enabling environment for pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, the African Union said in a statement.
The agency’s leadership is expected to be announced in November this year, The New Times has learned.
Hosting the AMA comes at a time when Rwanda is investing in local vaccine manufacturing, an attempt to achieve vaccine equity on the continent.
Most recently, President Paul Kagame led the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the BioNTech vaccine manufacturing plant in Kigali which will foster the scalable production of mRNA vaccines in Africa.