EAC Ministers in charge of Health have endorsed a regional policy framework aimed at promoting antibiotics production and a collaborative mechanism for information exchange in the production and supply of antibiotics across the region.

The 44th EAC Ordinary Council of Ministers endorsed this framework following multistakeholder consultations at the national and regional level as well as sensitization meetings with senior officials including Permanent Secretaries of Ministries responsible for health and industry. The project engaged over 300 stakeholders from both public and private sectors across the region.

This significant development came to light during a closeout meeting of the EAC-UNCTAD project, "Investment Incentives for Local Production of Essential Antibiotics in East Africa," held in Nairobi in December 2023. The meeting, attended by representatives from the EAC and its Partner States, UNCTAD, GIZ, and GFA Consulting Group, provided a platform to unveil the Council's approval of these essential policy documents.

Since 2019, the EAC Secretariat has collaborated closely with UNCTAD to develop and support the implementation of these critical policy documents. Mr. Jean Baptiste Havugimana, the Director of Productive Sectors at the EAC Secretariat, emphasized the impact of the approved Policy Framework on Production and Supply of Antibiotics.

"The framework introduces incentives that address current bottlenecks in local antibiotic production, while the cooperation mechanism facilitates regular updates on essential antibiotics facing shortages, supply interruptions, excessive pricing, and other challenges,” he said.

Dr. Juma Mukhwana, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Industry in the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry, acknowledged UNCTAD's support and highlighted the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry in the region.

Dr. Mukhwana emphasised the urgent need for EAC Partner States to implement policy incentives to attract investments, considering the region's heavy reliance on imported medicines.

Mr. Bruno Casella, UNCTAD’s Senior Economist and Chief of the Intellectual Property Unit commended the project's success and emphasized its alignment with UNCTAD's strategic focus on global research and policy work in pharmaceutical local production and regionalism.

The implementation of the EAC Regional Policy Framework and Cooperation Mechanism will necessitate a multisectoral approach, bridging health, trade, industry, and investment. Existing implementation structures at both regional and national levels will be leveraged, but capacity enhancement will be a crucial component of the policy implementation process. The implementation will also require policy and regulatory changes, the introduction of new practices, and rigorous monitoring and reporting.

This milestone marks a significant stride towards strengthening the regional capacity for antibiotics production and supply, with potential far-reaching impacts on public health and economic resilience within the East African Community.