- Signs agreement with BoMRA
The recent signing of a service level agreement with the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BoMRA) marks a turning point in the strategic direction taken by the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) – as it looks to attract investment by multinational pharmaceuticals into its Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
SEZA and BoMRA last week signed a ground breaking agreement that is meant to ensure efficient and effective facilitation of investors in the medicines and pharmaceuticals industry, in line with Botswana’s push for a knowledge and innovation-based economy. Globally, the pharmaceutical industry is a major sector of growth and competitiveness for national economies as it generates new job opportunities and increases long-term economic growth.
It therefore came as no surprise when SEZA lobbied BoMRA to ensure seamless facilitation and licensing of international pharmaceutical companies that are interested in investing at its SEZs. BoMRA is responsible for ensuring access to safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable medical products.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, SEZA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lonely Mogara said the agreement will ensure alignment of processes and procedures by SEZA and BoMRA to enable seamless service delivery for pharmaceutical multinationals willing to invest at its SEZs.
“This will reduce turnaround times for the processing of applications submitted by investors, thereby improving Botswana’s ease of doing business rankings and harnessing growth of the local pharmaceutical and medicines industry,” said Mogara.
For his part, BoMRA CEO Dr. Seima Dijeng said the agreement provides an opportunity for SEZA to safeguard public health by advocating for strengthening of regulatory systems for medicines and medical devices. Further, he said, the MoU will be a benchmark for the regulation of public – private collaborations, given previous market failures.
According to the agreement, SEZA will provide BoMRA with land and business information to facilitate investment by big pharma at its SEZs. BoMRA on the other hand will align its licensing procedures with those of SEZA; and share business information and advice relating to the pharmaceutical industry. BoMRA will also assist SEZA with carrying out company due diligence on potential investors in the pharmaceutical industry.
While Botswana currently has limited pharmaceutical production capacity, a few companies are engaged in the importation and packaging of bulk drugs. Others have shown interest in expanding regional production capacity by opening facilities in Botswana.
Government has also attracted investment into the country by launching the NantBotswana, a local manufacturing company that will produce the Pula Corbevax vaccine. The Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI) is also a major player in global sustainable animal health solutions; producing and exporting vaccines to over 15 countries in Africa and the Middle East. BVI is about to complete a new P300 million blending and filling facility, as it continues to reposition itself as key player in unlocking Africa’s vast livestock potential under its 2021-2025 strategic plan.
According to BVI General Manager Andrew Madeswi, the new blending and filling laboratory will be the final piece in ensuring that the complete process of BVI production meets full compliance with international standards. “It is expected that this will open up new markets and give BVI added capacity to explore blending and filling of other vaccines, hence expanding its product portfolio and putting Botswana in good standing to benefit from opportunities offered by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” said Madeswi.
Global statistics indicate that Africa and the middle east account for only three percent of the world pharmaceutical market. Africa imports 94 percent of its pharmaceutical and medicinal needs, which amounts to USD 16 billion annually. In 2022, Africa had 375 drug manufacturing facilities while China, with almost the same population, boasted of over 10, 000. Investment in the medicines and pharmaceutical industry has been targeted for the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA); a mixed use SEZ that is adjacent to Botswana’s largest airport and covers an area of over 800 hectares.