Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at WHO Press Conference on announcement of additional mRNA hubs in Africa

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
President of France, Emmanuel Macron,
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen,
President of the European Council, Charles Michel,
My fellow African Presidents,
President of Senegal, Macky Sall,
President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi,
President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta,
President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari,
President of Tunisia, Kais Saied,
We are delighted to be part of this announcement to share our experience as the first WHO mRNA Hub in Africa.
The World Health Organization has listened to our collective call to establish COVID-19 manufacturing sites in low- and middle-income countries in the midst of vaccine inequality.
The WHO is facilitating the establishment of an mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa that will use a hub-and-spoke model to transfer a comprehensive technology package and provide appropriate training to selected manufacturers in other African and low- and middle-income countries.
We welcome the announcement of the African spokes in Kenya, Tunisia, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt, which will receive the technology developed at the South African mRNA Hub.
Since South Africa was selected to host this Hub, we have learned a lot.
We have learned the value of a well-functioning eco-system that includes universities, research institutes, public health institutes, pharmaceutical companies, and regulatory bodies.
Institutions in the eco-system should work in a coordinated and collaborative manner and bring complementary expertise and skills.
Working together has massive benefits.
For example, the partnership between Afrigen and Wits University is very beneficial because Wits has been working on mRNA technology for the past ten years.
Consequently, between Afrigen and the university, they created an mRNA vaccine within two months.
We have also learned that setting up these Hubs goes beyond establishing production processes.
It should also extend to the development of human resource capacity across borders.
For example, the partnership between South Africa and Nigeria in genomic surveillance has led to the training of students from across the Continent.
Quality control is key to manufacturing success, ensuring that the standard operating procedures for production meet regulatory standards.
In South Africa, full operationalisation of the mRNA hub has been hampered by intellectual property barriers.
This could occur in other countries with the potential to host spokes.
The WHO and Medicines Patent Pool, with the assistance of European and African governments, are working to secure funding and intellectual property rights for Afrigen and its partners to establish the Hub.
Another challenge related to IP barriers is the failure to transfer technology to the Hub through non-exclusive licenses to produce, export, and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in low- and middle-income countries, including through the COVAX facility.
The lack of a market for vaccines produced in Africa is concerning.
Organisations such as COVAX and GAVI need to commit to buy vaccines from local manufacturers. This will enhance the spirit of Africa’s determination to ensure biotech sovereignty.
Unless Africa has a vaccine market, manufacturing vaccines will soon collapse.
We cannot continue being consumers of medical countermeasures for diseases produced at high prices that are not affordable to the Continent.
The TRIPS Waiver, when approved, will ensure freedom to operate for entities with the requisite capacity and provide a platform to upgrade existing capabilities.
In addition, it will facilitate the diversification of production to geographical regions that are currently cut out of manufacturing value chains.
Governments that are serious about vaccine access for all need to approve the TRIPS waiver.
It is not acceptable that Africa is consistently at the back of the queue in relation to access to medicines.
While we appreciate the donations, they are never a sustainable mechanism to build resilience.
Let us work together to address the healthcare needs across Africa.
Let us tackle obstacles together and demonstrate to the world that Africa has the ability, the scientists and the industries to provide the vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics needed to manage the African health challenges.
Let us save lives.
I thank you.