South Africa is in the process of finalising a R25-million investment to boost pan-African vaccine manufacturing capabilities towards Covid-19 through the African Renaissance Fund, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.
Ramaphosa told an inaugural national conference on the coronavirus that the global pandemic had put countries to the test and severely challenged the capabilities of their healthcare systems.
"As the international community we have been unanimous that services, supplies, products and technologies for prevention, treatment and care of Covid-19 must be available to all. No country must be left behind," he told the conference, conducted virtually because of the travel restrictions necessitated by the pandemic.
Hosted by South Africa's Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize as well as Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande, and also attended by World Health Organisation director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Friday's meeting brought together scientists, governments, business and civil society from all over the world to discuss the impact of the virus on society and the economy.
Ramaphosa said scientific innovation would play an increasingly prominent role in managing the pandemic, given that resource constraints posed a very real barrier for many vulnerable countries to do this effectively.
"We must continue to work tirelessly to develop technological solutions that meet our most pressing challenge, and that is resource scarcity," he said.
The very first ventilators produced by the South African National Ventilator Project would soon be coming off the assembly line at a factory in Cape Town to complement existing stock in the public and private health system, the president said.
A number of South African innovators had also taken up the challenge by bulk-producing hand sanitisers, developing self-screening assessment tools in local languages and pioneering contact tracing applications, he added.
"This pandemic must be a clarion call for African nations to invest in what is already a vibrant pan-African science and innovation ecosystem," said Ramaphosa, who is also current chairman of the African Union.
He said South African researchers were working in collaboration with international vaccine developers around a potential Covid-19 vaccine, while the South African Medical Research Council and the department of science and innovation had provided R10-million funding for the first local vaccine trial.