– As bank tags project “new dawn” in Africa’s pharma sector
As part of efforts to boost local production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) thereby moving Nigeria closer to medicine self-sufficiency, foremost indigenous pharmaceutical giant, Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, has signed a 14 million euro financing deal with the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Based on the details of the deal, which was finalised at the European Union-Nigeria Strategic Meeting, held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, on 19 October, the funding is to specifically support the production of API in Nigeria.
Speaking at the meeting, the Honourable Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said, “Today marks yet another milestone in the annals of the EU-Nigeria development cooperation. The EU-Nigeria relations is one of the most vibrant development partnerships, in terms of volume, thematic interventions, modalities, and geographical spread in the deployment of resources.
“The EU-Nigeria Strategic Dialogue is happening at the take-off of the current administration in Nigeria and presents opportunities for proper articulation and consolidation of priorities in our partnership.”
Statements released by the Emzor management indicate that its API production factory in Shagamu is set to begin production of up to 400 metric tonnes of API per year, with effect from the first quarter of 2024. The factory is expected to produce Artemether, Lumefantrine, Sulfadoxine, and Pyrimethamine.
The company added that its partnership with EIB is a significant step towards accelerating treatments against malaria and healthcare access across Nigeria and the African continent, thereby reducing the dependence on the importation of essential medicines.
On its part, EIB has described the API Project embarked upon by Emzor as a new dawn in the development and growth of Africa’s pharmaceutical industry.
The bank’s Investment Officer, Project Finance Division, Corporate Finance and Global Activities Department, Arthur Delor, made the assertion on 6 October 16, during a special tour of the Emzor’s expansive factory in Shagamu, Ogun State.
According to Delor, “the Emzor’s API project is a trailblazer in Africa and a new dawn in the development of the pharmaceutical industry on the continent. It is a great leap in the sector and the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. It will ensure production of high quality products and its affordability in Africa. The API Project will indeed make a great impact and will resoundingly facilitate development of standards in the industry.”
Speaking further, the EIB representative declared that the bank “is glad to contribute to the project. This is because it will support global development. We believe that it is time for developing countries to start to be developed. Africa should be less dependent on importation. In this regard, local manufacturing is one of the best ways to take Africa out of its current challenges. Africa, as a place, should start to contribute to global development, not just to depend on others; and our choice of Emzor is very appropriate to pioneer this project in Africa.”
Delor further expressed optimism that Emzor “is well established and well positioned to make Africa, especially Nigeria, a hub of quality products and supply chain. Emzor has a legacy of efficiency and good standards. It is a pharmaceutical industry with adequate facilities and resources to make a big change in Africa’s pharmaceutical development and growth.”
In his opening remarks at the event, the Chairman of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries, Emeka Okoli said that the main objective of the project is to set up a factory in Nigeria to produce APIs for antimalarial products. He said the organisation currently produces antimalarial FPPs and is targeting API production as part of its growth strategy, backward integration and supply chain security. He added that the company also wants to help in pioneering the mass production of APIs in Africa, ensuring commodity security and access to quality products across the continent.
“Emzor has partnered with an Indian company, Mangalam Drugs & Organics Limited, a world renowned WHO/FDA-approved producer of antimalarial APIs, intermediate, and other specialty chemicals. Emzor has already signed an agreement with Mangalam, which will advise and manage the implementation of the project as a tech transfer partner,” he said.
In his remarks at the event, the Chief Executive Officer of API for Africa (APIFA), who is also an Emzor partner in the project, Frankline Keter, described the project as an opportunity for APIFA that is based in Kenya to achieve its main objective.
According to him, “At APIFA, our main aim is to facilitate the local production of APIs and other health products and technologies (HPTs) in sub-Saharan Africa. We do this by working with a multitude of critical stakeholders from the private sector, public sector, research institutes, and civil society, to address a major market challenge, the lack of not only API manufacturing capacity in sub-Saharan Africa but also affordable medicines.
“It is a great privilege to witness this ceremony. This is a big deal in Africa; Emzor is setting the pace. This project will not only boost African Continental Free Trade but also encourage and support local producers to invest. What is left for us is to celebrate and congratulate ourselves on this great season in Africa.”
Also speaking at the event, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries, Dr Stella Okoli, encouraged government to do more in helping local manufacturers.
She said, “Government has a lot to do in supporting local manufacturers. It is a fact that the prosperity of the nation resides with local production. This is how the dwindling economy can be successfully revived.
“As a company, we are playing our part and we shall continue to do so. From day one, we have determined not to let our country down. We are here to do the right thing in the pharmaceutical industry, producing high quality drugs. And we are advancing to the next level, by pioneering API manufacturing in Africa.”
Information further released by Emzor revealed that the company’s fourth factory, named “Emzor Manufacturing Campus”, seated on a 60-hectare site in an industrial zone on Lagos -Ibadan/Abeokuta Benin interchange in Shagamu, Ogun State, is currently housing an Oral Solid Dosage (OSD) Plant, Cephalosporin Plant, Intravenous Fluids (IVF) Plant, Penicillin Plant, Gas Plant, and other support utilities. The factory at present, produces close to 20 billion tablets annually.
The company further revealed that, while the API plant is being funded with a loan grant of 14 million Euros by the EIB, the grant forms about 54 per cent of the entire financial implication of the plant construction.