(Jeddah, Cairo, Nairobi, 14 September 2020) – The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), have partnered with the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), to launch a new Arab-Africa Trade Bridges Program (AATB) initiative called the Harmonisation of Standards for Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices in Africa, aimed at promoting the quality and safety of medicines and medical devices imported or produced on the continent.
Harmonized product standards are critical to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), ensuring that producers of goods on the continent comply with one shared set of minimum regulatory and customer quality requirements, in turn allowing them to supply the continental market and beyond with goods that meet those standards. The harmonisation of standards also serves to enhance the quality of African manufacturing and boost intra-African and Arab-African trade and investment – one of the AATB’s key objectives.
The initiative, which will be implemented in a phased manner over three years, begins immediately with the harmonisation of standards for pharmaceutical products and medical devices for use in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The second phase will analyse and assess existing international, regional, and national standards for their suitability in meeting the unique challenges faced by African healthcare industries before achieving the 3rd phase, which is the harmonization of the related African Standards and their adoption on the continent.
Commenting on the initiative, ITFC CEO, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol said: “From a trade development standpoint, harmonizing the standards of pharmaceutical products and medical devices in Africa is a crucial first step in facilitating local production and trade within the sector. Such standards provide a necessary baseline from which to regulate the sector more effectively, raising the quality of locally produced life-saving drugs and related products, and ensuring timely access to appropriate and affordable medicines, vaccines, and other health services for those who need them most. It will also act as a catalyst for Africa to benefit from a burgeoning pharmaceutical sector, expanding trade opportunities locally and beyond borders thus creating long term sustainable socio-economic impact on the continent.”
The initiative will also serve to enhance trade and investment within Africa’s healthcare industry by boosting the manufacture of high-quality homegrown products and services – objectives laid out within the AfCFTA.
Welcoming the initiative, Mrs. Kanayo Awani, Afreximbank’s Managing Director of the Intra-African Trade Initiative said: “At a time when the demand for quality medicines and medical devices is increasing, Africa needs to reinforce regional value chains to scale-up the supply of quality medical products. This would also contribute to building the continent’s resilience against pandemics like COVID-19 in the future. Furthermore, leveraging on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, this joint initiative will also facilitate increased intra-African trade in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables.”
As part of a COVID-19 response, the harmonization of standards will facilitate the development of equivalent technical regulations among African countries. Therefore, distribution of medical supplies and equipment from one country to another can be fast-tracked.
A long-term outcome of the initiative will be the emergence of regional supply chains for pharmaceutical and medical devices, which will foster an ecosystem of innovation, local production and the development of medical products for diseases that are currently neglected.
Commenting on the initiative, ARSO’s Secretary General, Dr Hermogene Nsengimana, said: “While on one hand COVID-19 has created social distancing as a new norm, on another hand it has brought Africa together by opening our eyes to the need for industrialisation. Standards circulated by ARSO and other standards organisations related to face masks, and hand sanitizers have been used widely by African SMEs to develop locally made personal protective equipment thereby shedding light on the role of standards in industrialization, safety, and trade. This Initiative with Afreximbank and ITFC, will not only help in increasing local production but will also create trust and enable cross border trade and investment for pharmaceutical products and medical devices.”
The African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) will play a key role in the development of standardization policies, applying existing principles and procedures that are already set out in the African Standards Harmonisation Model (ASHAM). ARSO’s involvement will be supported by its Council, in addition to a Joint Advisory Group comprised of Regional Economic Communities, and a series of technical committees, which will carry out the harmonisation work with the resources provided under this grant from AFREXIMBANK and ITFC.
About the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC)
The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) is a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group. It was established with the primary objective of advancing trade among OIC member countries, which would ultimately contribute to the overarching goal of improving socioeconomic conditions of the people across the world. Since 2008, ITFC has provided more than US$51 billion to OIC member countries, making it the leading provider of trade solutions for the Member Countries’ needs. With a mission to become a catalyst for trade development for OIC Member Countries and beyond, the Corporation helps entities in Member Countries gain better access to trade finance and provides them with the necessary trade-related capacity building tools, which would enable them to successfully compete in the global market.
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About the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution with the mandate of financing and promoting intra-and extra-African trade. Afreximbank was established in October 1993 and owned by African governments, the African Development Bank, and other African multilateral financial institutions as well as African and non-African public and private investors. The Bank was established under two constitutive documents, an Agreement signed by member states, which confers on the Bank the status of an international organization, and a Charter signed by all Shareholders, which governs its corporate structure and operations. Afreximbank deploys innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that are supporting the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialization and intra-regional trade, thereby sustaining economic expansion in Africa. At the end of 2019, the Bank’s total assets and guarantees stood at USD$15.5 billion and its shareholders funds amounted to US$2.8 billion. Voted “African Bank of the Year” in 2019, the Bank disbursed more than US$31billion between 2016 and 2019. Afreximbank has ratings assigned by GCR (international scale) (A-), Moody’s (Baa1) and Fitch (BBB-). The Bank is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt.
For more information, visit: www.afreximbank.com.
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About the African Organization for Standardisation (ARSO
The African Organization for Standardisation (ARSO) traces its genesis to the unfolding events and the prevailing mood of the African socio-political and economic Pan-Africanism of the 1970s, the idea of a continental standardization body had received considerable impetus from the buoyant and optimistic mood that characterized the post-independence period in most of Africa. The mood then, under the Organisation of African Unity (OAU),currently African Union, was one of pan-African solidarity and collective self-reliance born of a shared destiny with standardization viewed as a guidepost of the destiny and bedrock of African Economic Integration Agenda and a route to linking up of the fresh Africa’s economy with the rest of the world and to deliver the African Common Market for economic prosperity of the continent. ARSO was then established by OAU as intergovernmental organization, 1977 mandated to harmonize standards and conformity assessment to increase intra Africa trade and global trade. Under the AfCFTA agreement, ARSO is in charge of developing standards to be used by the State party. The standardization work is done by experts nominated by African Union’s member states who are members of ARSO, and the work is guided by the Africa Standard Harmonization Model (ASHAM).
About the Arab-Africa Trade Bridges (AATB) Program
AATB is a multi-donor, multi-country and multi-organizations program, aiming to promote and increase trade and investment ﬂows between African and Arab member countries; provide and support trade ﬁnance and export credit insurance; and enhance existing capacity building tools relating to trade. The program specifically focuses on the key sectors of agriculture and related industries including textiles; health industry including pharmaceuticals; infrastructure and transport; and petrochemicals, construction material and technology.