After implementing the most successful COVID-19 inoculation campaign on the African continent, Morocco is looking to bolster its biologics and vaccine manufacturing capacity via two major agreements with Swedish CDMO Recipharm and Chinese Sinopharm. The North African nation hopes to be better able to supply the health needs of its own population via these deals and thus achieve greater health sovereignty from countries in Europe and North America.
Vaccine access inequality between developed and developing nations is a huge issue, with countries in Europe and North America accused of hoarding vaccines at the expense of the global South. South Africa and India have argued for a global vaccine IP waiver – a proposal which has since gained the support of the US – as a potential solution to the situation whereby lower-income countries account for only a fraction of the roughly three billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered globally.
South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised economy, has partly vaccinated only four percent of its entire 60 million population, and Niger, the continent’s most populous nation, has delivered just 1.7 doses per 100 people (compared to 98 doses per 100 in the US). Morocco is Africa’s best performer by far on this front with over 20 million doses administered (no other African country has reached five million inoculations).
During an event chaired by Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Morocco announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Recipharm and a consortium of the country’s leading banks to invest around USD 500 million in a factory that will manufacture vaccines and biotherapeutics. The primary objective, according to the document, is to supply the African continent and “help it gain vaccine sovereignty and access to future biotherapeutics.”
The factory is planned to be operational by 2023, will be run by Recipharm and will mirror the Swedish company’s new fill and finish line at its facility in Monts, France “on a larger scale.” “Together with the other parties involved, we will be able to work to offer Africa a concrete opportunity to gradually gain health independence from western countries and ultimately help to ensure it is less vulnerable in times of crisis,” said the company’s CEO, Marc Funk.
In the same event, the Moroccan King announced that Moroccan pharmaceutical company Sothema will soon start production of 5 million doses a month of China’s Sinopharm. The public-private partnership reportedly began after a telephone conversation between King Mohammed VI and China’s President Xi Jinping and is part of an effort to boost the country’s international influence.
“The commitments we are making today are a decisive step that will create in Morocco of a biopharmaceutical pole of excellence on the Continent, which we want to be recognized globally,” said Samir Machour, international expert in industrial biotechnology and current vice president of Samsung Biologics.