The pandemic has highlighted the lack of vaccine production facilities on the continent, reports AFP, which critics say is emblematic of Africa’s worrying dependence on the global north, which has been largely reluctant to sanction vaccine exports.
Ninety-nine percent of vaccines used in Africa are imported, according to a joint statement from the Senegalese government and the EU. The new funding agreement is intended to revive vaccine production at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, headquartered in Paris, the statement said, reducing dependence on imports.
Senegalese Economy Minister Amadou Hott said in the statement that the new production site would lay the foundation for “pharmaceutical and medical sovereignty”. It would also “increase access to affordable vaccines in Africa and allow vaccine production to respond quickly to new pandemics,” he added.
With around 5.8 million reported cases of Covid-19 and around 149,000 deaths among its nearly 1.3 billion people, Africa is the least affected continent in the world after Oceania, according to a tally of AFP.
Construction of the plant is expected to begin later this year, according to the statement, which adds that 25 million doses of the vaccine are expected to be produced each month by the end of 2022.
The European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank, as well as the United States, France, Germany and Belgium, will fund the project, alongside the Senegalese government and other donors.
It is not yet clear how many other donors will contribute. However, several donors had already contributed millions to a feasibility study.
“The initiative will not only support Africa’s autonomy in the production of life-saving vaccines, but will also serve as a cornerstone in Senegal’s emerging health industrial ecosystem,” said European Commissioner Thierry Breton, quoted in the press release.