South Africa set to expand vaccine manufacturing

To support South Africa and the African continent increase vaccine manufacturing capacity and reduce reliance on imports, a consortium of nine development and finance institutions have today announced a partnership with Biovac in Cape Town, South Africa to support Biovac’s vaccine manufacturing expansion.

Biovac, a bio-pharmaceutical company and established vaccine manufacturer based in South Africa, is part of a consortium of organizations that has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVAX partners to establish the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa. Biovac has also entered into an agreement with Pfizer in July 2021 with the goal to manufacture up to 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use exclusively in Africa.



Biovac aims to expand its vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa initially through its current activities related to the production of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and subsequently for much needed routine vaccines as well. This will bolster the global response to COVID-19 and advance long-term health security throughout the African continent.

This expansion is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-being by improving access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines; and UN SDGs 8 and 9 on improving economic opportunities and upgrading technological capabilities of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in Africa. To realize the expansion and increased local vaccine manufacturing capacity on the African continent, Biovac will need to raise around $150 million (ZAR2.3 billion).

The consortium partners will aim to support Biovac in this future manufacturing plant capacity and vaccine pipeline expansion. The consortium partners include the African Development Bank (AfDB), CDC Group – UK’s development finance institution which is soon to be renamed British International Investment, the German development finance institution DEG, the U.S.

International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union Delegation to South Africa, International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC), and the French development finance institution Proparco.

“COVID-19 has proven that a more geographical spread of vaccine manufacturing is much needed globally, with the African continent having the least number of vaccine manufacturers. We are pleased that the consortium of funders is willing to work with Biovac to create sustainable African vaccine manufacturing, not only to respond to the current pandemic, but also to much needed routine vaccines and future pandemic vaccines as well,” said Biovac CFO Craig Mitchell.

“This unique partnership will help boost the production and manufacturing capacity of a range of vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, in Africa. With strong partnerships and increased investment, manufacturers in Africa, such as Biovac, can ramp up domestic vaccine production to build a more resilient health sector and strengthen regional value chains,” said Makhtar Diop, IFC Managing Director.



“We have developed a 2030 Pharmaceutical Action Plan/Continental Vision for Africa. We aim to increase the local production of pharmaceuticals to 70% by 2030, and of vaccines to 60% by 2040. Today’s announcement with Biovac is a strong testament to our pledge to make direct investments in manufacturers and provide leadership to support the development of the pharmaceutical industry on our continent. Africa must become self-sufficient. Health security is fundamental to economic security,” said African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, adding the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that Africa could not outsource the health of its people to other continents or rely on global supply chains.

“Accelerating vaccine delivery to countries that need them the most must become a global priority, and this requires collective effort. CDC is thrilled to be a part of this consortium that brings together DFI expertise and capital to support Biovac in contributing to scaling vaccine production across Africa, and bolster the continent’s response and self-reliance on this and other health crises,” said Tenbite Ermias, the CDC Group’s Managing Director for Africa.

“It is essential to join forces to address medical care in Africa. This is why we welcome Biovac’s initiative to expand its vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa. Besides strengthening vaccine production on site, it has a positive signaling effect for South Africa as a medical hub. We are happy to support the development of this project and look forward to strengthening the cooperation,” said Roland Siller, CEO of DEG.

“The United States is proud to collaborate on this effort to expand manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 and other critical vaccines in Africa in order to improve healthcare on the continent,” said DFC CEO Scott Nathan. “Supporting the global community’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening health systems in developing countries are top priorities for DFC. This project advances President Biden’s Build Back Better World (B3W) Initiative by bolstering global health infrastructure.”

“Scaling up vaccine production in South Africa is crucial to accelerating global immunization and beating COVID-19. EIB Global is working with African and international partners in supporting vaccine manufacturing, improving public health and enhancing economic resilience to the pandemic across Africa. As part of Team Europe, the EIB is pleased to join financial partners to support Biovac’s plans to produce vaccines in South Africa for Africa,” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for development.



“Our differentiated approach to find the best way to assist partner countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic has made possible EU funding to help unlock significant Development Finance Institution loans in support of South Africa’s own vaccine manufacturing capacity. The EU grant is an expression of Team Europe’s unwavering commitment to the global fight to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Riina Kionka, the EU’s Ambassador to South Africa.

“The IDC has a long-standing partnership with Biovac. From the onset, the Corporation appreciated the company’s long-term objectives to establish a world-class commercial vaccine production facility. Recent development in vaccines access has reinforced the need to scale up and ensure capacity to manufacture vaccines locally, for our country and our continent,” said Hilton Lazarus, IDC’s Head of its Chemicals, Medical and Industrial Mineral Products Business Unit.

“France is strongly committed to increasing vaccine production and access in Africa, as illustrated by its support to the creation of the continent’s first mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub announced by President Emmanuel Macron in June last year. Through this partnership with Biovac and our DFI partners, Proparco will build on its experience working with local pharmaceutical companies and further contribute to scaling up vaccine manufacturing capacities in South Africa,” said Gregory Clemente, CEO of Proparco.