WINDHOEK – Pharmaceutical companies opting to establish themselves in Namibia have been encouraged by Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, to position themselves in such a way that they can enter the regional market. According to Haufiku, a larger market would make local pharmaceutical companies more sustainable and due to economies of scale a larger operation can offer more affordable prices.
“Everyone is welcome to set up pharmaceutical companies in Namibia. The problem is that some of these companies want to have an agreement with government that what they produce government should buy and, in some cases, they might be four times more expensive than where we are procuring,” Haufiku told New Era.
“That is not sustainable,” he said, adding: “The bigger the market the more room there is to manoeuvre because the Namibian market is too small for pharmaceuticals alone. Branching out into the Southern Africa market is in line with what SADC requires.”
For instance, during the recent SADC Industrialisation Week in Windhoek, regional leadership revealed that Southern Africa has a condom shortage of about one million condoms a day as only two countries in the region, Namibia and South Africa, actually manufacture condoms.
However, a local condom manufacturer, Commodity Exchange, which produces a number of different condom ranges, says it is still waiting for feedback from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which must give it the go-ahead to enter the regional market.
Commodity Exchange applied for WHO pre-qualification in 2016 after which the global organisation’s auditors visited the production facility in Prosperita industrial area, Windhoek. However, the company is still waiting for WHO feedback and has in the meantime finalised registration of their products in neighbouring countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe and has commenced with this process in Zambia.
“We have a current capacity of 200 million condoms per annum and annually we supply between 30 million to 50 million condoms to the Namibian market. We would love to enter the regional market and our quantity of exports will depend on the volumes required in the region,” explained Wilbus van Wyk, Group Quality Manager at Commodity Exchange.
Earlier this week New Era reported that the shared procurement of essential medicines and commodities in SADC has been identified as a priority with the aim to establish an autonomous non-profit organisation called the SADC Pooled Procurement Services. Commenting on this development, Haufiku said that a challenge is that individual Southern African states have their own registration of medicines, which are different from each other. He noted that health ministers in the region are working on a common medicine registration process to introduce common laws applicable to all countries in the region in procuring medicines.
“…The avenues are there already for pooled procurement. We can buy together but we still have to register products individually as countries,” explained Haufiku. With Namibia having taken over the new SADC chairmanship, Haufiku said he would push for the registration laws to be in conformity with each other.
He added that the WHO has the Global Drug Facility Agency, which is used by countries to procure medicine at a cheaper price and that he would push for Namibia and SADC states to uniformly procure medicine through that avenue as a bloc.
“We are pushing for the harmonisation of laws to buy medicines including contraceptives, vaccines and antiretroviral drugs as a bloc,” said Haufiku.