Programme Director, Ms Nzinga Qunta;
Co-hosts of the 24th DCVMN AGM: Dr Morena Makhoana, CEO of Bio-Vac, and Rajinder Suri, CEO of DCVMN
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyseus, Director General WHO
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO (CEPI)
Dr Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., Director (PAHO)
Dr Nicaise Ndembi, Senior Advisor to DG of the Africa, Communicable Disease Centre (CDC)
Prof. Padmashree Gehl Sampath, CEO, African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, and Senior Advisor to President Pharmaceuticals & Health, African Development Bank Group
Director General of Health, Dr Buthelezi;
Senior government officials here present;
CEOs of the various Developing Country Vaccine Manufacturers’ Networks;
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to convey the apology on behalf of our President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, who would have loved to be here with us.
Unfortunately, the President is attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), taking place in New York, the United States of America.
South Africa is proud to host the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN) for its 24th annual general meeting, under the theme, "Accelerating Sustainable Regional Vaccine Manufacturing through Global Partnerships.
This remarkable event, which brings together a diverse array of over 300 delegates hailing from various corners of the globe, serves as a testament to our commitment to global health and unwavering determination to contribute to the well-being of communities worldwide.
As co-hosts of this year's DCVMN AGM, Biovac must be applauded for their efforts in bringing this important conference to our shores. We are proud that a South African vaccine firm is co-hosting an event of this importance and magnitude, as it also speaks to our domestic sector’s capacity and potential.
The DCVMN is an important, voluntary alliance that represents over 40 vaccine manufacturers from 15 developing countries and produces the most vaccines globally.
Today, I deliver this speech with a profound sense of purpose and urgency. You have gathered here at this crucial vaccine conference to address a matter of utmost importance, not only for our beloved nation but for the entire continent of Africa.
This AGM follows the highly successful BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg last month, which brought together heads of state and business leaders from across the developing world.
Significant commitments were made at the summit to collaborate in order to meet mutual development goals for the BRICS members and broader developing nations. These revitalised bonds and commitments across the Global South represent an important opportunity for DCVMN’s members to leverage.
The goal of equitable vaccine access, especially as the globe recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, is a core outcome sought by BRICS members and other groupings in the developing world, as well as a key enabler of the social and economic goals set at the summit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of our world, exposing vulnerabilities in our healthcare systems and the global vaccine supply chain. We have witnessed the devastating impact of this virus on our lives, our economies, and our communities.
It has been a stark reminder that we are all interconnected, and no one is safe until everyone is safe.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical sector plays a vital role in ensuring public health, and the impact of this crisis on their operations cannot be underestimated.
As DCVMN members deliberate the path to accelerating sustainable regional vaccine manufacturing through global partnerships during this year’s AGM, we are hopeful it will lead to outcomes that dovetail with the continent’s efforts.
Africa, like many regions, faced significant challenges in securing sufficient vaccines during this pandemic. In an ever-evolving world, we cannot remain reliant on external sources for vaccines and pandemic readiness.
It is crucial for professionals in this field to continuously improve and update their skill sets. With new diseases and health challenges emerging, it is imperative that we have skilled individuals who are equipped to develop innovative solutions.
Skill development is not just about staying up-to-date with the latest scientific advancements. It is also about fostering a mindset of learning and adaptability.
By improving our skills, we can adapt to patient and industry needs. Continuous learning and development help us solve complicated challenges, make smart decisions, and improve patient care. It also provides new personal and professional growth opportunities. New talents boost our capacities and work prospects. Skills development also encourages professional teamwork and knowledge exchange.
I encourage each and every one of you to embrace skill development in the pharmaceutical industry. As government, we believe that addressing skills deficits in the economy and implementing intervention plans to develop human resources is essential to developing the South African economy and ensuring higher rates of employment.
By embracing a growth mind-set and investing in our skills, we contribute to the advancement of the pharmaceutical industry and, most importantly, we improve the lives of countless individuals who rely on the medications and treatments that we develop.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a continent, we have taken bold and decisive steps towards self-sufficiency in vaccine manufacturing and pandemic preparedness through the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacture (PAVM), which is coordinated through the Africa CDC. I urge you to support this initiative in its bold aim to achieve 60% of vaccines manufactured on the continent by 2040.
We have also taken bold steps in our own country of South Africa, where three of our own companies, Biovac, Aspen, and Afrigen, have invested time and resources in expanding vaccine production capability.
We are equally proud to host the WHO mRNA Hub that is being hosted at Afrigen, with Biovac being earmarked to be the first recipient of this cutting-edge technology. This capability, together with the oral cholera vaccine project being developed by Biovac, will enable vaccine drug substance capability (i.e. the raw material manufacture), which is lacking in the country and the continent.
This is a testament to South Africa playing a leading role in our collective quest to have end-to-end vaccine manufacturing capability in Africa. Africa is not lacking in talent, expertise, or resources. What we lack is a robust and coordinated effort to harness these capabilities.
It is time for us to invest in the development of our pharmaceutical industry, ensuring that we have the capacity not only to manufacture vaccines but also to conduct critical research and development.
Developing a safe and effective vaccine requires extensive testing, clinical trials, and regulatory approvals. The pharmaceutical industry has faced significant pressure to expedite the development process due to the urgency of the pandemic.
However, ensuring safety and efficacy remains paramount, leading to a delicate balance between speed and thoroughness.
We must build partnerships with the global community, which includes the DCVMN community, to transfer technology, knowledge, and expertise to our shores. By doing so, we can create a thriving pharmaceutical industry that not only meets our domestic needs but also contributes to the global fight against infectious diseases.
Moreover, pandemic readiness is not just about vaccines; it encompasses the entire spectrum of healthcare infrastructure, from diagnostics to treatment and beyond. We must invest in strengthening our healthcare systems, training our healthcare workers, and stockpiling essential medical supplies.
In our pursuit of self-reliance and pandemic preparedness, let us not forget the importance of collaboration.
We must work hand in hand with our fellow African nations, sharing knowledge and resources, and with the global community to achieve these ambitious goals.
As you deliberate over the next three days, let us be united in our determination.
Let us commit to building a brighter future for Africa, one where we are not just recipients of vaccines and aid but producers and champions of our own health and well-being.
I envision an Africa that is resilient in the face of pandemics, an Africa that provides hope and health to its people, and an Africa that contributes to the well-being of the entire world. Together, we can make this vision a reality, but only with the support of the global vaccine community.
I wish all delegates fruitful and constructive conversations over the next three days and hope that those visiting from overseas have an opportunity to explore some of Cape Town’s world-class tourist attractions during their stay in our beautiful country.
I thank you.