Buy Zimbabwe has welcomed the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy in Zimbabwe 2021-2025 that was recently launched by government saying it will promote local production and export of pharmaceutical products in the country.
The strategy also aims to address some of the challenges besetting the industry including doubling production of essential drugs to 60 percent and growing revenue to US$150 million from about US$32 million.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, Buy Zimbabwe General Manager Alois Burutsa said the pharmaceutical sector is a priority in the National Development Strategy1 that the government is pursuing in order to turn around the fortunes of the manufacturing sector and the economy at large.
“There are many benefits that will come through for the country at large through this manufacturing pharmaceutical strategy, which will include increased production of pharmaceuticals which will naturally translate or should translate to reduced prices of products due to economies of scale and also availability of locally produced medicine.
“As you are aware due to shortages of foreign currency and also due to covid-19 restrictions which also affected the movement of products, at times certain medicine would not be available.
“ With increased local production, that should then alleviate all those shortages as we would have most of the medicines available locally,” he said.
He added that the strategy will also enhance the local pharmaceutical industry through improved competitiveness that will increase the country’s export performance.
“Also in terms of competitiveness, it is important that our pharmaceutical industry becomes competitive as you will know there is the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement that is coming through and this means that Zimbabwean companies have got to be competitive in order to survive the onslaught that will come from the imports.
“Also in terms of market expansion, government through this pharmaceutical manufacturing strategy in Zimbabwe is committing to buying medicines from the local pharmaceutical manufacturers which will obviously expand the market for the local manufacturers.
“Currently the pharmaceutical industry in Zimbabwe has been producing very limited products, through this strategy now-you will see diversification of products, so we will have more products available in the market which will naturally again assist in reducing the import bill,” he said.
According to Burutsa, upgrading of manufacturing quality to international Good Manufacturing Practices standards will benefit the local manufacturers because currently there are only two manufacturing pharmaceutical companies that meet international standards in Zimbabwe.
The Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr. Sekai Nzenza, says the Pharmaceutical Strategy in Zimbabwe (2021-2025) has been necessitated by the realization that the local industry is contributing marginally to medicines consumed locally (only 12%).
“The Strategy is therefore designed to take the pharmaceutical industry to the next level by promoting local production and exports of medicines into the region and the rest of the world.
“The pharmaceutical sector is a priority in the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025) and Zimbabwe National Industrial Development Policy (2019-2023).
“Further, the COVID 19 pandemic has shown that there is need for countries to be self-reliant due to closure of borders.
“The main challenges in the sector include low level of local production, huge imports, low exports, lack of financial resources, antiquated equipment, low purchases by Natpharm, cumbersome registration process, low compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices and lack of commercialization of traditional medicines.
“Notwithstanding these challenges, the sector has potential to contribute to the national economic development as witnessed by some companies which are already exporting in the region.
The strategy’s main pillars include: implementation of a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) roadmap; strengthening of national medicine regulatory capacity, export focus and product development,” he said.
According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the challenges facing the industry are manifold, some of which include; a weak demand caused by discontinued purchase by the national pharmaceuticals procurement agent (Natpharm) due to lack of funding, limited competitiveness in production caused largely by a tariff structure that favours cheaper medicine imports, and partly by industry delays for registration of new products or by lack of capacity of the industry to produce quantities required nationally.
Other challenges include; a growing mismatch between market needs and local industry production and limited financial support and incentives required by the industry