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Conference Reports


EU-Africa Business Forum

The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on 31st March and 1st April in Brussels Belgium as a prelude to the 4th Africa-EU Heads of State Summit. The Forum was opened by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.

Some of the factors which make Africa attractive to Europe as a business landscape are the population of over a billion people; Africa has 8 out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world; over the past 5 years ended 2012 African/European business improved by 40%. While Europe has an ageing population half of Africa’s population is under 25 years of age.

Of concern was the fact that intra Africa trade accounted for only 12% of all trading activity while in the European Union this figure stood at 72%. Various delegates ascribed this to the 54 borders on the African continent.

Dr Zuma indicated that despite the 20% drop in investment by European countries, Africa was open for business. However instead of providing the tomatoes for Ketchup, Africa wanted to bottle and export the finished product.

Ahmed Heikel, Chairman and founder of Citadel Capital, said investors were not willing to invest in all countries in Africa. The main considerations were demographics, resources and the stability and ethics of governments.

Charles Mbire, Chairman of MTN, indicated the biggest constraints to business in Africa were the cost of capital, the fact that education on the continent is tailored towards white collar jobs and conventional business plans are not suited to the considerable informal business sector. Mohammed Ibrahim Founder of the Foundation that rewards presidents for relinquishing power constitutionally, indicated the miss match of education with Africa’s strengths when he quoted that 27% of undergraduates studied the humanities and only 2% agriculture. Andrew Whitty CEO of GSK, indicated his confidence in Africa by saying that the company was investing in five pharmaceutical factories in the next few years. He maintained that companies investing in Africa expected too short a time line to obtain returns.

The Business Forum conducted 12 round table discussions on various aspects of business from investing and financing to renewable energy.

Healthcare was one of the discussion streams under the topic “Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals through EU-Africa Business Cooperation, Including local Production of Generic Medicines in Africa”

The session was chaired by Greg Perry, Executive Director of the Medicines Patent Pool and supported by Francois Bompart, Vice-President of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and Nick Haggar, President of the European Generic Medicines association.

There was about two hours of discussion on the topic from various country representatives among who was Dr Skhumbuzo Ngozwana from the NAPM.

The UNIDO stance was that Medicines should be produced in close proximity to patients. This would ease regulatory aspects such as inspections and reduce stock outs. Local development will build the industry and reduce the need for donations. Development of a local industry would generate both jobs and income. Hence UNIDO supported the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan For Africa (PMPA) as recognised in 2012.

Recommendations for the roundtable discussions which were to be presented to the EU-AU Heads of State Summit in Brussels on 2nd and 3rd April.

The EU-Africa Business Forum recommends:

1. AU – EU – WHO action plan to ban substandard medicines causing health risks:

a. setting up rigorous product quality testing, pharmaco-vigilance systems and regional bioequivalence centres;

b. implementation of the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization program (AMRH) and establishment of the African Medicines Regulatory Agency (AMA).

Immediate political commitment is needed from country health authorities to agree on necessary resources on national, regional or pan-African level.

2. All governments criminalizing counterfeiting of medicines, by e.g. implementing national and regional laws or sign the MEDICRIME Convention.

3. Increase EU-African collaboration on universal health coverage alongside those countries that mobilized resources towards the Abuja commitment of 15% of her national budget for health.

4. Create a Europe-Africa discussion forum for the understanding of the 3 dimensions of HS: Building Blocks, Health Programs and Performance Drivers.

5. Develop sound national and regional investment policies and create Infrastructure Investment Fund that boosts local private sector participation in infrastructure delivery, and promotes PPP in this area.

6. European Union to support the African Union to actively encourage the Business Plan of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA BP), including financing and facilitating business linkages (e.g. joint ventures. Technology transfers, voluntary licensing and patent pooling).

7. EU and African Union to support countries in developing reliable demand forecasting models of key drugs and vaccines, that will drive economies of scale and market size necessary for local production.

Unhappily the Presidents of South Africa and Zimbabwe did not attend the Summit, ostensibly because President Mugabe’s wife was not given a VISA for the event. What was pleasing was the active part presidents John Mahama of Ghana and Ibrahim Keita of Mali and former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae played in the Business Forum.