Senegal and Team Europe to build a manufacturing plant to produce COVID-19 vaccines

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 July 2021:

President Macky Sall of Senegal, said yesterday that he welcome the support of Team Europe and other partners, including the United States and the World Bank Group, for their support in constructing a manufacturing plant in Senegal to produce vaccines against COVID-19 and other endemic diseases.

Macky Sall, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, European Investment Bank Director and the United States have signed grant agreements to set up the large-scale vaccine production facility.

Part of the Team Europe Initiative on Manufacturing and Access to Vaccines, Medicines and Health Technologies in Africa is set to reduce Africa’s dependence on 99% imported vaccines and bolster production in Africa.

The agreement is part of a major package of investment in vaccine and pharmaceuticals production in Africa launched by Team Europe in May, which brings together the European Commission, EU Member States, and the European Investment Bank, and other financial institutions, in line with the EU’s Strategy with Africa and the strategy of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM).

Team Europe, together with other international partners, has committed to a significant package of support for the medium- to long-term sustainability of the project. This includes Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supporting the manufacturing hub in Senegal with a €20 million grant through KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau), the German development bank.

France, through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), has already granted two initial financing packages totalling €1.8 million to the MADIBA project (Manufacturing in Africa for Disease Immunization and Building Autonomy) at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar for feasibility studies and initial investments. The AFD Group and its private sector subsidiary, Proparco, are also working within the group of technical and financial partners to structure the project in order to reach financial support at a larger scale.

Belgium will support Senegal in structuring initiatives to produce vaccines and pharmaceuticals, such as the Pharmapolis pharma hub. Belgium also welcomes the fact that a Belgian biotech company in novel bio-manufacturing platforms is forging, with the support of Wallonia, a partnership with the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, as a key partner for building capacity and transferring technology.

The European Commission is discussing with the Senegalese authorities the possibility of mobilising further financial support by the end of 2021 under the new NDICI / Global Europe instrument to support this project. This is part of the €1 billion Team Europe initiative to boost the manufacturing of, and access to, vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in May 2021.

At a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and representatives of Germany, France, Belgium, the European Investment Bank and other development finance institutions, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), yesterday confirmed details of Team Europe support to accelerate project preparation, expand manufacturing capacities and undertake technical feasibility work. These will be crucial to unlock large-scale investment in the new plant. This will be built over the next 18 months and will equip the African continent with a state-of-the-art facility for the production of authorised COVID-19 vaccines.

Team Europe is providing €6.75 million in grant support to enable technical feasibility studies and project preparation for the new facility at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. This amount includes €4.75 million from the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, €200,000 from Germany, and €1.8 million from France. This will also enable the total investment cost and financial structures to be defined and agreed with Senegalese and international partners. Construction of the new plant is expected to start later this year, with 25 million vaccine doses being produced each month by the end of 2022.

Announcing the contracts, Amadou Hott, Senegal’s Minister of the Economy said: “To strengthen the fight against pandemics in Africa, the Government of Senegal is committed to enabling COVID-19 vaccine production at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. This project is part of the vision of His Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, to lay the foundations for the country’s – and the continent’s – pharmaceutical and medical sovereignty. It is strongly supported by my colleagues in charge of finance and health who see it as another means with which to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively. Initial funding and expertise from Team Europe and other partners, such as the United States, the World Bank Group, and regional donors, will accelerate construction of the new production plant, increase access to affordable vaccines in Africa, and enable vaccine production to rapidly respond to new pandemics.”

“Africa currently imports 99% of its vaccines. But with today’s agreement, Team Europe is helping Senegal move one important step closer to producing its own vaccines and protecting Africans from COVID-19 and other diseases. And more will come. This is just the first part of a much broader Team Europe initiative to support the production of medicines and vaccines across Africa,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Scaling up local production of COVID-19 vaccines is crucial to tackle the pandemic. As part of Team Europe, the European Investment Bank welcomes today’s agreement that will unlock large scale investment at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar to manufacture vaccines in Senegal and improve health across Africa. The European Investment Bank looks forward to even closer technical and financial cooperation with Senegalese and international partners to deliver this visionary project. This is a key milestone in the EIB’s global effort to address the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 and build a better future,” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.

“Team Europe is proud to support the Government of Senegal’s visionary ambition to enable licensed COVID-19 vaccine production at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. The initiative will not only support Africa’s autonomy in the production of life-saving vaccines, but also serve as an important building block in Senegal’s emergent health industrial ecosystem,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, leading the European Commission’s task force for the industrial scale-up of vaccine production.

“Team Europe is mobilised to support African partners throughout the COVID-19 crisis, in line with the priorities in our Africa Strategy. Boosting local manufacturing of vaccines, medicines and health technologies is one of the key lessons of the pandemic. Today, we draw on our combined financial firepower and expertise to accompany Senegal and the Institut Pasteur of Dakar in producing vaccines to bring the pandemic to an end. It is crucial to take an integrated, 360-degree approach by further investing with our African partners in areas like the enabling environment, regulatory strengthening, incentives for the private sector, research and development, education and training, and innovative jobs,” said Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships.

“As part of Team Europe, the European Investment Bank is pleased to support technical feasibility and project preparation studies for Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. Over the coming months we will intensify cooperation with the Government of Senegal and international financing, technical and pharmaceutical partners to unlock large-scale financing to bring African vaccine production to reality and reduce Africa’s dependence on imported vaccines,” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice-President.

“COVID-19 poses a growing threat in Africa. So Africa needs a vaccine campaign – using African-produced vaccines. Now, for the first time, the continent has a realistic chance of establishing its own manufacturing facilities. Senegal’s Institut Pasteur has unveiled an actionable strategy for launching licensed COVID-19 vaccine production in Africa. The 20 million euros we are providing in seed funding will be important in helping to get the project off the ground. Germany supports the goal that Senegal and the international community share, which is for us to emerge from this pandemic stronger,” said Germany’s Minister for Development, Gerd Müller.

“Addressing vaccine production capacity is a key aspect of our strategy to stem the pandemic, as the President of the Republic has stated. Today, by supporting vaccine production in Africa with a European approach, we’re helping to build our partners’ ability to autonomously provide vaccines for their citizens. So I’m delighted to see this vaccine plant project take shape, a project that is the result of collaboration between the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal and Team Europe,” said the French Minister for Europe and for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves le Drian.

“We fully join Team Europe. Vaccine equality is key to my policy and a major global challenge. Africa needs access to affordable, quality-assured health products. Belgium’s efforts go beyond increasing vaccine manufacturing capacities. They shall prioritise public health, reinforce epidemic preparedness and strengthen local health systems. We will support our Senegalese partners with the structuring of their pharmaceutical industry and the launch of a pharma production hub,” said Belgium’s Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy, Meryame Kitir.

Team Europe has been at the forefront of the response to COVID-19 in Africa, as one of the leading donors to the COVAX Facility, the global initiative to secure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in low and middle-income countries.

Institut Pasteur de Dakar – key partner for vaccine production in Africa

The Institut Pasteur in Dakar already produces World Health Organisation approved vaccines and has been identified by the Government of Senegal and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Protection as a potential host for the new vaccine production plant. The new facility is expected to be built on land adjacent to existing research facilities.

Following the signature ceremony at the presidential palace today, a delegation visited the Institut Pasteur de Dakar to discuss plans for vaccine production with Amadou Sall, General Administrator of the Institut Pasteur de Dakar. The European Investment Bank and Germany’s KfW development bank are already cooperating with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar to scale up production of rapid diagnostic testing kits for use by front-line health workers across Africa.

France is a long-standing partner of the network of Pasteur Institutes and in particular of the Pasteur Foundation in Dakar which it supports in its efforts to increase its vaccine production capacity. AFD has been co-financing the Africamaril project for the construction of a new yellow fever vaccine production plant in the new town of Diamniadio for over five years.

This plant will complement the historical facilities of the Pasteur Foundation in Dakar which has been producing these vaccines since 1937. Equipped with extensive experience and due to this long-standing relationship, France is now supporting the Pasteur Institute of Dakar in this new stage in the fight against COVID-19, whose experience will be necessary to meet the current challenge of increasing local production capacities in Africa.

Reducing Africa’s dependence in vaccine imports

Africa, a continent of 54 countries and 1.2 billion people, currently produces only 1% of the vaccines it administers. The remaining 99% are imported.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed Africa’s vulnerabilities in ensuring affordable access to vital drugs, vaccines and health technologies. Boosting local production will save lives, boost public health and health systems, and strengthen African economies, including supporting local jobs and enhance the sharing of crucial technologies.

African, European and international support for new facility

The first phase of the new vaccine production plant is expected to be financed by the Government of Senegal and international partners including the European Commission, through the European Investment Bank, Agence Française de Dévelopment, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Leading pharmaceutical and technical partners are already working with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar to enable existing vaccine production, specialist packing and distribution technology to be used at the new plant. The European Commission is currently funding two projects to support the Institut Pasteur de Dakar.

Broader Team Europe support for health resilience in Africa

As Team Europe, the European Commission, European Investment Bank and European development finance partners are addressing Africa’s need to increase local manufacturing capacity to produce vaccines in order to bolster Africa’s health security.

Through the new Sustainable Health Industry for Resilience in Africa (SHIRA) scheme the EIB is providing financing and technical support to tackle barriers to regional production.

3 Comments

  1. The international collaborative effort aimed at providing Africa with a much-needed capability to produce vaccines for its own use is certainly a very welcome development. The scientific knowledge and technological know-how being transferred as a result of this effort will hopefully be a win for everyone – for Senegal and the rest of Africa and for the wider world. For an independent and self-sufficient Africa capable of combatting epidemics and pandemics on its own will enhance both the continent’s image of itself and the rest of the world’s image of it as well as allow the latter to attend to its own needs and problems without feeling compelled to come to the rescue time and again of a continent viewed incapable of standing on its own two feet. The issue though is why choose Senegal within our West African subregion as the operational base of the collaborative effort rather than say Ghana, Nigeria or our own Sierra Leone? It might be argued that Senegal is only the starting point of operations and that sooner or later all four corners of the continent will have their respective state of the art facilities centred on vaccine research and production. Furthermore, one might say that with its Institut Pasteur de Dakar (a biomedical centre established as far back as 1896 and named after its sister instiute in Paris and both bearing the name of the renowned French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur), Senegal is perhaps the best equipped and so the best prepared country in the subregion to play host to the transformative medico-scientific collaboration now underway. And there is the rub.

    Senegal in 1896 was a French colonial possession and continued to be so until 1960, the year it gained political independence. And even as an independent, sovereign nation, it continues – like many other former French sub-Saharan African colonies – to gravitate around its former metropolitan French centre. That gravitational pull of France is encapsulated in such neo-colonial power arrangements as la Francophonie, a supposedly linguistico-cultural grouping bringing together culturally diverse countries who nonetheless share the French language in common. This gravitational pull has had an economic dimension to it as well.

    The CFA Franc guaranteed by the French treasury and initially pegged to the French Franc and now to the Euro, is the currency used in Senegal and many other Francophone West and Central African countries to this day. The point of all this is that the choice of Senegal is no accident. France through its colonial and neo-colonial ties with Senegal and its central importance within the European union has a hegemonic interest in making the Institut Pasteur de Dakar a focal point and beneficiary of the resources and expertise being mobilised to create an African hub of vaccine research and production. The question is whether the African Union is prepared and willing to capitalize on this West-sponsored international collaborative initiative and own it completely. Where will future funding come from and who will ultimately call the shots – Paris or Dakar, Africa or Europe – as to how it is run and kept alive decades down the line? Beware the Greeks bearing gifts.

  2. A lot of Africans would have died before all these come to fruition. Now that is what our third world classification is all about.

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