Africa RISE's consultants visit Botswana to engage with stakeholders in the pharmaceutical ecosystem
Ensuring access to affordable and quality essential health products is a key objective of every health system. COVID-19 clearly highlighted the vulnerabilities of global access to health products. Local production of health products could decrease transport time, provide local jobs, increase local expertise, and cut dependence on foreign suppliers. The purpose of this visit was to collaborate with Botswana Investment and Trade Center (BITC) to identify the challenges and opportunities for the development of the pharmaceutical industry, to create a conducive environment for investment and to increase output through local manufacturing.
The main challenges experienced by Botswana are a small population and market size, which is common in many African countries, medicine shortages that result from depending on imports availability and an emerging but driven pharmaceutical and financial ecosystem. Regardless, the country can leverage on having a young educated population, forward thinking education and innovation institutions and parastatal companies such the Sowa and Botash companies which could further provide raw materials such as pharmaceutical grade salt and sodium bicarbonate to the industry which along with a fair regulatory framework for enhancing competition, further transparency on pharmaceutical demand and more public private partnerships, altogether have the potential to build the way forward for Botswana's pharmaceutical sector.
The Africa Rise consultants went on their first field visit to Botswana on the 23rd January 2023 to 10th February 2023 and made a second visit on the 15th to the 21st of April 2023. In total the consultants had meetings with 21 organizations and met with more than 62 people. The consultants had meetings with European Union Delegation, University of Botswana, Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority, Central Medical Stores, Othosurge, Matebele Milling, BotAsh, Botswana Bureau of Standards and many more.
Key findings from the stakeholders
Botswana has a strong vaccine manufacturing capacity with 40 years of experience in the production of animal vaccines, a striving export market and an excellent reputation in the region. There is a wide variety of plants with different uses that have the potential of being made into commercial products. Matebele Milling is a company that harvests and exports Harpagophytum procumbens, commonly known as devil's claws. Herbal medicines plants are grown at a small scale at Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources for research purposes by students.
What is next
A validation workshop will be done to review, discuss and validate the findings from the stakeholder workshop. An investment forum will be held to bring investors to Botswana.
Authors: Refilwe Matema and Ricardo Godinez