The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), have partnered with the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), to launch a new Arab-Africa Trade Bridges Program (AATB) initiative called the Harmonisation of Standards for Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices in Africa, aimed at promoting the quality and safety of medicines and medical devices imported or produced on the continent. The new initiative aims to harmonise African standards for pharmaceuticals and medical devices thereby enhancing intra-African trade, reducing substandard counterfeit products, and building resilient regional health systems.
Harmonised product standards are critical to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), ensuring that producers of goods on the continent comply with one shared set of minimum regulatory and customer quality requirements, in turn allowing them to supply the continental market and beyond with goods that meet those standards. The harmonisation of standards also serves to enhance the quality of African manufacturing and boost intra-African and Arab-African trade and investment – one of the AATB’s key objectives.
The initiative, which would be implemented in a phased manner over three years, begins immediately with the harmonisation of standards for pharmaceutical products and medical devices for use in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The second phase would analyse and assess existing international, regional, and national standards for their suitability in meeting the unique challenges faced by African healthcare industries before achieving the third phase, which is the harmonisation of the related African Standards and their adoption on the continent.
Commenting on the initiative, ITFC CEO, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol said, “From a trade development standpoint, harmonising the standards of pharmaceutical products and medical devices in Africa is a crucial first step in facilitating local production and trade within the sector. Such standards provide a necessary baseline from which to regulate the sector more effectively, raising the quality of locally produced life-saving drugs and related products, and ensuring timely access to appropriate and affordable medicines, vaccines, and other health services for those who need them most. It will also act as a catalyst for Africa to benefit from a burgeoning pharmaceutical sector, expanding trade opportunities locally and beyond borders thus creating long term sustainable socio-economic impact on the continent.”
The initiative would also serve to enhance trade and investment within Africa’s healthcare industry by boosting the manufacture of high-quality homegrown products and services – objectives laid out within the AfCFTA.
Welcoming the initiative, Mrs. Kanayo Awani, Afreximbank’s Managing Director of the Intra-African Trade Initiative said, “At a time when the demand for quality medicines and medical devices is increasing, Africa needs to reinforce regional value chains to scale-up the supply of quality medical products.”