In a historic event attended by prominent African leaders, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Ghana’s Nana Akuffo Adod, and African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, the inauguration of BioNTech’s first site in Rwanda has taken place this week.
This significant move by the German biotechnology firm aims to establish its initial vaccine production hub in Africa, specifically focusing on enhancing access to mRNA vaccines across the continent.
BioNTech’s CEO emphasized the company’s commitment to building a sustainable and resilient vaccine ecosystem in Africa.
The $150-million project represents a collaborative effort to rectify the flaws observed in the global distribution of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic, where certain regions, particularly in Europe, were prioritized over countries in the global south.
President Kagame expressed the importance of this milestone, highlighting the initial skepticism about administering mRNA vaccines in Africa due to perceived complexities in the health systems.
The project challenges these misconceptions, demonstrating that not only is it possible to manufacture such vaccines on the continent, but it is also a necessary step.
The ceremony, attended by dignitaries such as the Prime Minister of Barbados and European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen, marked a transformative moment. BioNTech anticipates completing the construction of the factory by 2024, with operations commencing the following year.
The facility, situated on 35,000 square meters of land, is constructed from recycled shipping containers, reflecting a sustainable approach.
The initiative aims to employ around 100 local staff who will be trained in the latest mRNA technology to produce various vaccines. Once operational, Rwanda will distribute these vaccines to the 55-member African Union bloc, contributing to the goal of ensuring vaccine accessibility across the continent.
This groundbreaking effort builds upon Africa’s first mRNA vaccine hub launched in April in Cape Town, South Africa. Supported by the World Health Organization, the Cape Town project involves collaboration between Biovac, Afrigen, and the South African Medical Research Council.
Beyond mRNA vaccines, the hub holds the potential to expand manufacturing capacity for various other vaccines and medical products, addressing critical health needs such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV.
The establishment of BioNTech’s hub in Rwanda signifies a significant stride toward advancing healthcare capabilities and resilience in Africa.