This June, the very first East Africa Pharma and Biotech Conference took place in Kigali and brought together experts from industry, government, academia, civil society and development cooperation to discuss and leverage the development of the pharmaceutical and biotechnological sector in East Africa.
The two-day conference aimed at fostering collaboration and development in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector and took place from 13 to 14 June 2023 at the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda.
To increase access to essential medicines, many African countries have been actively working towards enhancing their capacities in biotechnological and pharmaceutical research, development, and production in recent years. These efforts have been accelerated since COVID-19 and include harmonising regulatory procedures, establishing training centres, facilitating technology transfers, and bolstering Research & Development capabilities. Rwanda is in the process of developing a conducive ecosystem for manufacturers and thus provided an ideal platform to discuss experiences, lessons learned and potential enablers for new investments in the region.
To organise this first-of-a-kind event, the Government of Rwanda, represented by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) partnered and received support from Invest for Jobs. The conference brought together experts from industry, government, academia, civil society, and development cooperation to strengthen the network within the field and promote knowledge exchange. It covered a wide range of topics crucial to the development of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector in the region, with a strong focus on regulation, biomanufacturing and workforce development. While representatives from well-established pharmaceutical companies shared their lessons learned, companies who have recently started operating in Rwanda contributed their early experiences from a country-specific perspective.
Following discussions on training a fit-for-purpose workforce, day one culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which officially marked the launch of the “Rwanda Bioeconomy Training and Acceleration Centre”. The Rwandan Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), the University of Rwanda, UVU Bio – a South Africa based organisation supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs in the bioeconomy, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Rwanda are the signing parties of this partnership. With the signing of the MoU, the preparations for the fitting-out of the laboratory space will begin and the acceleration and training programmes are expected to start beginning of 2024.
Further, conference attendees enjoyed interactive discussions during focused breakout sessions, the showcasing of selected initiatives and ample opportunities for in-person networking.
The conference received very positive feedback, particularly for providing an exchange platform among and with industry experts. This shows the need to continue and strengthen the dialogue across stakeholders in the region and to show and follow up on the current developments of a vibrant and fast-growing pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector in East Africa and Rwanda specifically.
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