A Bangladeshi firm has announced the construction of a Sh7.5 billion pharmaceutical plant in Kenya.
Situated on a 16-acre plot at the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Athi River, the pharmaceutical plant will manufacture up to two billion tablets and 60 million bottles of liquid medicines annually for the local and export market in Africa.
The drugs will be used to treat diseases such as HIV and Aids, malaria, tuberculosis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and anti-psychotic disease within five years of the start of manufacturing.
Mr Tapan Chowdhury, the managing director of Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd, said the factory will help Kenya to reduce its dependence on imported drugs.
“We recognise the opportunity to address obstacles limiting access to quality, affordable drugs and promote public health in the region and a local pharmaceutical manufacturing plant will ensure Kenya and the region can easily access quality and affordable medicine,” he said.
He added: “We believe that local pharmaceutical production has a potential to drastically reduce the cost of drugs by 40 per cent.”
In addition to other benefits such as creating jobs, the World Health Organisation believes the local production of medicine in developing countries could be a solution to the lack of affordable drugs.
Construction of the plant in Kenya comes after the 2017 approval of the East African Regional Manufacturing Plan of Action 2017-2027 which requires national procurement agencies of the East African Community (EAC) member states to buy at least half of their medicines locally.
“We expect the plant to be operational by mid-2019 and by then some 1,500 Kenyans will have benefited from direct employment opportunities. A total of 50 per cent of our products will be exported to the EAC and other African markets,” said Mr Chowdhury.
Industry Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed said foreign direct investment, such as that of Square Pharmaceuticals, will play a key role in development of the local manufacturing sector.
“The new factory will bring significant industrial benefits such as technology transfer and demand for education and training,” said Mr Mohamed.
Currently, the local manufacturers can only meet 28 per cent of Kenya’s drugs demand, according to Dr Jacinta Wasike, the director of inspection-surveillance and enforcement at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
Speaking at the event, she said the remaining 72 per cent is covered by imports worth an estimated $600 million (Sh61.9 billion) with a regular import growth of 11.5 per cent in the last three years on average.
“We will be involved in quality assurance and overseeing the production to ensure the entire process is carried out according to accepted global and local specifications and guaranteed maximum safety levels for patients when used,” she said.