Seeking solidarity of sovereignties to end sickness
The 5th stakeholders meeting of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI) ended with a view to focusing on the identification and facilitation of partnerships for the development, scale-up and market access to local health technologies that can transform health care delivery in Africa. LILLIAN CHUKWU reports.
As the world focuses on the post-2015 Development Agenda, Nigeria and other developing countries are expected to provide leadership in sustaining innovation and granting access to essential health technologies for poor communities.
Specifically, the global community expects Nigeria and others to prioritise partnership and health financing in their programmes.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goal, is also clear on this mandate. The goals, which build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), highlight the need to enhance research, improvement, technology transfer and technological capabilities in emerging economies.
This aspiration was the talking points at the just concluded meeting on partnership and financing of health innovation in Africa organised in Nairobi, Kenya, by the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI).
The group is a pan-African initiative hosted by the United Nations Office for Project Services in agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The meeting emphasised the importance of local and international collaboration in scaling and sustaining the development of and access to essential health tools in Africa for diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries.
The executive director of ANDI, Dr. Solomon Nwaka, said, “the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa has reinforced the urgent need for more resilient healthcare systems.”
He said the new approaches involving the use of technology are important in improving health service delivery in the continent.
ANDI has recognised about 38 African institutions including Nigeria’s National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) that are conducting research and development and innovation activities on drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, medical devices and traditional medicines in Africa.
He, however, expressed concern about the Nigeria’s inability to redeem its 1.5 million dollar pledge in collaboration with ANDI’s health innovations made about four years ago, and also the country’s failure to be adequately represented at the health innovations meeting in Nairobi November 23rd to 25th 2015.
He said, despite his invitation to the newly appointed Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole for the 5th ANDI meeting, neither the Minister nor the NIPRD personnel could come because of lack of fund.
“I have always thought that Nigeria can do a lot more since it is well blessed, got the resources, endowed with scientists, other bright people and flamboyant institutions. The biggest challenge appears to be leadership; we need to be more accountable.”
He is though optimistic about the momentum of the new government; he hopes this translates to some concrete actions.
“An institution like NIPRD is a goldmine for a country like Nigeria. NIPRISAN (which ANDI is also supporting) came out of NIPRD and this is a product that came out of Nigeria traditional medicines for the management of Sickle Cell Anemia, Nigeria should invest on this drug by doing all the necessary work to see it is scaled up, to ensure it is publicly available and commercialised.
“I think the challenge I see is that there is no leadership and accountability, people cannot make a commitment and not implement it, so I find it very strange and disturbing. But I am absolutely confident that Nigeria can do it and I am hoping that the new administration (of President Muhammadu Buhari) will do more to make sure Nigeria remains a leader in the continent,” the Director-General said.
Nwaka urged for strong governance and accountability structures, as “we have to realise that countries have developed based on their investments on innovations and there are clear examples.”
Director–General of NIPRD, Prof. Karniyus Gamaniel who was represented by a professor of pharmacy, technology and raw materials, Kunle Olobayo, cited challenges of NIPRD in a presentation on ‘Leveraging the Capabilities of African Centers of Excellence for Project Implementation and Capacity Building to Include Funding.”
He listed some of the products submitted by the research institute for marketing approval to include anti-malarial, immune booster, anti-diabetic and antifungal drugs.
Gamaniel noted that, “the reality as seen from statistics can be depressing”.
He cited gaps in the institute to be human capacity being grossly under-utilised, poor agenda setting, half-hearted commitment by governments and financial challenges.
As one of the four ANDI’s Centers of Excellence in West Africa, Gamaniel said that “insufficient contact with other COEs, poor response or even non-response to enquiries by COEs, weak bonding between COEs, poor cooperation from researchers with respect to their research findings and access to consumables are partly responsible for the challenge faced by the organisations.
The strategic plan 2016 to 2020 defines the focus of ANDI in facilitating health research and development, and access in Africa as well as the basic budget required to achieve the desired outcomes and impact.
Vice chairman, ANDI Board, Dr. Tshinj Ilunga said, countries do not comply with their own commitment. The main item of this meeting was to get inputs of stakeholders in the business plan that would guide the activities of ANDI between 2016 and 2020.
“This is like a roadmap for ANDI. We have been very happy for the input we have received from the participants. They have contributed in shaping the objectives and goals of ANDI. They have contributed in proposing new activities and have insisted on some aspects of the activities of ANDI especially the partnership. They said that ANDI should be promoting partnerships between researchers and stakeholders that are contributing to achieving its objectives,” he stated.
Ilunga said that sustainable funding is indeed a challenge and that “the meeting also made contributions on how we can achieve that. It is very important for ANDI to remain an African programme for Africans to contribute and in the meeting we have proposed a fundraising strategy that will include Africans as well as non-Africans.
“So we are hoping that when we get to implement that strategy, it will help resolve the issue of sustainable funding.
To the African governments, he stressed, “ANDI is about addressing the needs of African population first. It is important for African governments to own and be the main promoters of ANDI and be the ones pushing ANDI it shouldn’t be the opposite.
“We have gone through a difficult time in transiting ANDI from Geneva to Addis Ababa, that was a difficult time, but thank God we have overcome that. ANDI secretariat is now in Addis Ababa. Now is time for ANDI to embark on the actual implementation of its programme and that is where fundraising becomes a problem, but definitely, we will overcome that as well,” Ilunga pledged.