African island states launch joint medicines procurement initiative, Newsline

Johannesburg – The ministers of health from seven small African island states have signed an agreement to jointly procure drugs and vaccines in a bid to improve quality and access to medicines and other health products.

A statement issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) late on Tuesday said the ministers from Cabo Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe and Seychelles signed the pooled procurement agreement to take advantage of economies of scale and collective bargaining.

The high cost of drugs and medical supplies is one of the major challenges the small island states face due to their modest populations.

WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti who joined the virtual signing ceremony with director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, said efforts made so far in establishing the joint procurement programme had already increased the attractiveness of the pharmaceutical market of the states.

“By creating a larger stream of demand, we can look forward to better access to quality and competitively-priced medicines,” she said.

“The high cost of medicines is one of the major barriers many countries in our region face in providing affordable health care of good standard. Pooling our resources is one way of overcoming this challenge.”

Plans to set up the joint procurement initiative began in 2017 in Seychelles during a meeting of health ministers from five small island states. Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar joined later.

WHO said as the African region grappled with the double burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, it was essential for countries to have systems in place to timely procure supplies at a reasonable cost and in sufficient quantities.

African News Agency (ANA)