The UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr Michel Sidibe, has called for production of antiretroviral drugs in Africa.
The call is contained in a statement signed by the Deputy Head of Communication and Information, AU Commission, Mr Wynne Musabayana, on Saturday in Abuja.
Such a measure had become necessary to ensure continuous access to life-saving treatment for people infected with HIV and AIDS on the continent.
“Africa is most affected by HIV and AIDS epidemic but remains hugely dependent on imported pharmaceutical and medical products.
“It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of ARV medicines are imported.
“Local production of ARVs is vital to secure continued access to treatment for 7.6 million people already accessing the drugs in Africa and the millions more who still need access to treatment,” he said.
Sidibe stressed that local production was not only important for antiretroviral drugs but other existing and future health challenges facing the continent.
He called on Africa leaders to meet before the end of 2014 to discuss modalities for the local production of drugs.
Sidibe said it was time for Africa to break its dependence on importation.
“The manufacture of pharmaceuticals in Africa is an opportunity to develop a broader manufacturing and knowledge-based economy,” he said.
The Director-General of UNIDO, Mr Li Yong, said it would partner with continental stakeholders to develop the pharmaceutical industry in Africa to improve public health.
Yong said in line with UNIDO’s mandate of promoting industrial development, it would support efforts to enhance the development of viable high quality industries in Africa.
The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Carlos Lopes, said $18bn was spent on pharmaceutical and medical products in Africa in 2012.
Lopes said it was projected that Africa would spend $45bn on pharmaceutical products in 2020.
“The immense need for ARVs drugs and other medicines presents a big market opportunity for pharmaceutical companies on the continent,” the secretary said.
The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr Mustapha Kaloko, said that local production of generic medicines in Africa had promised affordability, availability and employment opportunities.
Kaloko said the production would also allow local regulatory authorities to oversee the quality of essential medicines, and ensure stock replenishment, among others.
He said African leaders have endorsed strategic continental frameworks to develop the sub-pharmaceutical sector.