African Pharma Industry 2023: What Made The Headlines

The African Pharma Industry in 2023 was filled with some events that positively shaped the continent while some that showed challenges that are still abound.
African Pharma Industry

Despite making enormous progress over the years, it’s safe to say that the African Pharma Industry is still not yet operating at its optimal level.

The continent is still riddled with substandard and falsified health products, a fragmented regulatory system and a level of local production that is unable to meet its public health needs.

That being said, 2023 saw the continent make major moves geared at improving its overall pharmaceutical landscape while also trying to deal with the challenges that were abound.

These are some of the topics that grabbed the headlines;

First African Manufacturer gets WHO prequalification for key antimalarial production
African Pharma Industry

In October this year, Universal Corporation Limited– a Kenyan based pharmaceutical manufacturing company- became the first in Africa to get WHO pre-qualification to manufacture SPAQ (sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine plus amodiaquine).

This announcement indicated that the company’s manufacturing operations and quality control met international manufacturing standards for SPAQ and will possibly positively impact the fight against malaria.

The drug is recommended for seasonal malaria chemoprevention and is expected to be a gamechanger in the fight against the disease in the region.

In 2022 there were 580,000 deaths in Africa due to malaria, where children accounted for 80% of this figure.

This announcement was especially good news for a region that relies heavily on imports to meet its medicine needs and remains vulnerable to substandard and falsified (SF) drugs.

A report estimated that 267,000 deaths per year are linked to SF antimalarial medicines and this prequalification is expected to play a part in mitigating this figure.

Rwanda to headquarter the African Medicines Agency
African Pharma Industry

In June this year, Rwanda signed an agreement with the African Union Commission to host the headquarters of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) in Kigali.

AMA is a specialized agency of the African Union (AU) whose focus is to enhance access to safe, quality and efficacious health products in Africa.

Among many roles, it is expected that the agency will promote local pharmaceutical manufacturing, coordinate joint reviews of clinical trials for vaccines as well as identification of substandard and falsified medicines in the African pharma supply chains.

The African Union had earlier invited proposals from countries who held an interest to host AMA.  From this, the assessment for suitability was based on criteria set by the AU for hosting its institutions in 2007. Some of the factors considered were; security, healthcare access and capacity and ease of travel. 

It’s clear that Rwanda is steadily positioning itself as a preferred destination for international pharmaceutical activity. This is shown by entrance of BioNTech who early in the year kicked off construction of a vaccine manufacturing facility and the African Development Bank also electing to host the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation in the country.

South Africa paid double EU price for COVID vaccine

Through a court process, NGO Health Justice Initiative engineered the public release of unredacted COVID vaccine contracts between the South African government and 4 vaccine providers. These companies included Pfizer; the Serum Institute of India, Johnson & Johnson and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

The contracts showed that South Africa paid $5.35 to Serum Institute of India for a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. In contrast the European Union (EU) paid less than half ($2.17) for the same commodity. It is also claimed that the country also had to pay 15% more than the EU for the Johnson & Johnson Covid jab.

Civil societies were up in arms with some terming the agreements as “pernicious pharmaceutical bullying and heavy handedness.”

The revelations shocked many and sparked a huge debate calling for the revision of the International Health Regulations to institute fair terms in future pandemic health products.

READ ALSO: New Country Ratifies The African Medicines Agency Treaty (

GSK withdraws from Nigeria

After over 51 years in operations in Nigeria, Glaxo SmithKline called an end to their marketing operations transitioning to a third-party distributor model.  

African Pharma Industry

The pharmaceutical powerhouse explained in a statement that Nigeria’s economic downturns and challenges in accessing foreign currencies played a huge part in the decision. These factors, they said, had led to disruption of the consistency of pharmaceutical supplies in the country.

GSK’s exit from Nigeria follows a similar decision by the same company to exit from Kenya less than a year before that. Attributing this to a high cost of production and low sales volume.

Time will tell how this decision will impact these countries and the continent in general but it may be time for African countries to provide better environments conducive for business.

Political and economic stability, adoption of technology and legal frameworks that encourage both manufacture and trade of health products are some areas that countries can work on.

Generic CAB-LA to be manufactured in South Africa

Earlier this year, it was announced that Cipla will be manufacturing a generic version of cabotegravir (CAB-LA) in South Africa.

CAB-LA is a long-acting injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) HIV medicine that has shown significant levels of safety and efficacy in prevention of HIV transmission.

In fact, 2 studies showed that the drug resulted in a 79% relative reduction in HIV risk compared with oral PrEP medication. This was largely attributed to the convenience in administration that enhances adherence.

Initially, CAB-LA is administered twice in a space of 4 weeks and thereafter once every 8 weeks.

With a disproportionate disease burden when it comes to HIV, access to this medicine is poised to strengthen Africa’s ability to curb new infections and the overall number of persons living with HIV.

Countries will be eagerly waiting to roll out this medicine considering that WHO has advised countries to deliver it as part of comprehensive approach to HIV prevention as a pre-exposure prophylaxis medicine.


The above list is only some of the events that made the headlines in the African pharmaceutical landscape. However, there were many other news-worthy happenings that shaped the continent.

As 2023 comes to a close, there is a cautious optimism that this industry will move another step forward in elevating local manufacturing, regulatory harmonization, innovation and other factors that will propel the industry forward.

Bring on 2024!


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About the Author

Bevin Likuyani

Bevin Likuyani is a Pharmacist with a MPharm (Pharmacoepidemiology & Pharmacovigilance) and MBA (Strategic Management) from School of Business, University of Nairobi). He is a Certified Supply Chain Pharmacist. (American Association of Supply Chain Management) and content writer on pharmaceutical related topics. Email: LinkedIn

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