US billionaire to manufacture Covid, cancer vaccines in S. Africa

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech millionaire, has announced that he will begin transferring technology to South Africa in order to manufacture Covid-19 and cancer vaccines.

In an online news conference with President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African-born and now-US-based doctor detailed the proposal that would see coronavirus vaccine production begin next year. Within the following three months, Shiong’s business NantWorks will transfer the technology, and vaccine manufacturing is scheduled to commence in 2022.

The government’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the South African Medical Research Council, and the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, as well as four local institutions, according to a statement from Ramaphosa’s office.

Aside from vaccinations, the NantWorks project will focus on cell-based immunotherapies, which might lead to novel cancer treatments.

Soon-Shiong, a physician from California, described this as “a momentous event in my life; it’s been a life ambition to look at technology we can bring back home.”

“We now have the expertise and technology to manufacture vaccines in Africa,” he continued. “It is my hope and wish that Africa would benefit from this technology.”

The investment, according to Ramaphosa, is a “game changer” for South Africa.

“This collaboration will drive South Africa and Africa in general to the forefront of healthcare, research, technology, and innovation,” Ramaphosa added.

This is the third pharmaceutical manufacturing investment announced in South Africa this year, the pandemic’s worst afflicted country on the continent.

In the southern city of Gqeberha, once known as Port Elizabeth, Aspen Pharmacare is filling and packing Johnson & Johnson injections.

The World Health Organization has chosen South Africa to host an mRNA manufacturing centre, with Biovac of Cape Town completing the final “fill and finish” phase for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Rwanda Medical Supply Ltd signs $75m contract with USAID

Rwanda Medical Supply Ltd (RMS) has secured a contract with USAID for $75 million to increase the efficiency of Rwanda’s health product supply chain.

The agreement was inked on September 3 and is scheduled to last for five years.

The “Transforming Rwanda Medical Supply Chain (TRMS)” initiative will act as the principal vehicle for procuring and delivering health commodities to end users.

The first phase will focus on providing HIV/AIDS goods, followed by Malaria, Family Planning, Maternal and Child Health items, and other health commodities.

RMS is scheduled to acquire over 350,000 multi-month supply bottles of the very effective HIV treatment medication as one of the first operations financed under this contract.

Dr. Daniel Ngamije, Minister of Health, stated that the initiative seeks to enhance RMS’s planning and management skills.

“It would boost operational efficiency, capacity to use data in decision making, and guarantee proper and timely purchase and distribution of health commodities to last mile service delivery points,” he added.

He went on to say that the first few years will be devoted to delivering HIV/AIDS goods under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The effectiveness of the country’s pharmaceutical supply chain, despite the fact that it is a complicated industry, impressed the USAID Rwanda Mission Director, Jonathan Kamin.

“This is noteworthy for Rwanda, a supply chain performance leader on the continent, because it is now the beneficiary of one of the largest direct commodity procurement contracts with a local supply chain organization from USAID.”

“Direct collaboration with capable local organizations is critical to USAID’s objective of strengthening local self-sufficiency.” Kamin made a comment.

According to Pie Harerimana, CEO of RMS, this fund would address the issue of capacity building by allocating funds to teach staff to operate properly.

He went on to say that the initiatives are intended to address operational inefficiencies, long procurement procedures, inventory management gaps, and inadequate order fulfilment rates, among other things.

The formation of RMS Ltd was a government of Rwanda initiative aimed at strengthening the pharmaceutical supply chain system with the ultimate goal of ensuring the availability of quality medications in health facilities for the people.

Ethiopia gets 108,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from AVAT

As part of the first monthly shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, the African Vaccination Acquisition Trust (AVAT) announced the arrival in Ethiopia of 108,000 vaccine doses.

AVAT is delighted to announce that, 108,000 vaccination doses of Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccines will be shipped to Ethiopia. This is part of a total shipment of 6.4 million vaccine doses to African Union member countries in August 2021. Members who bought vaccinations through AVAT will continue to receive shipments for the foreseeable future. UNICEF provides logistics and delivery services to Member States in conjunction with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).

These shipments are part of a historic COVID-19 vaccine advance procurement deal signed by AVAT on March 28, 2021 for the purchase of 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the option to acquire an additional 180 million doses. The agreement and the beginning of delivery represent the first time that African Union Member States have jointly acquired vaccinations to protect the African population’s health. The 400 million vaccinations obtained by AVAT are enough to immunize one-third of Africa’s population.

The deal with Johnson & Johnson was made possible by a USD 2 billion facility granted by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which also serves as the Financial and Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, Instalment Payment Advisers, and Payment Agents. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) provided technical support with the financial arrangements and the AU Ministers of Finance’s alignment.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Lia Tadesse, hailed the delivery of the vaccinations, saying, “The acquisition of these vaccines would strengthen our national COVID-19 immunization program- in addition to helping the current COVID rollout.”

The African COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team was established in November 2020 under the African Union chairmanship of HE President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, as part of the African Union’s COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy, with the goal of vaccinating at least 60% of the African population with safe and effective vaccines.

This vaccine purchase and deployment is also backed by an innovative collaboration between the World Bank and the African Union, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which aims to increase access to vaccinations across the continent.

UK Export Finance invests in Six Hospitals Project in Africa

The UK’s export credit agency has granted its largest-ever loan to West Africa to encourage UK exports. UK Export Finance (UKEF) has agreed to lend EUR 241 million to NMS Infrastructure, a Sub-Saharan African infrastructure project developer.

The dual-tranche facility will assist NMS Infrastructure in the development of six hospitals under an export contract with the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene of Côte d’Ivoire. The total project, at EUR 326 million, is for the design, construction, and equipment of six hospitals in Bouaké, Boundiali, Katiola, Kouto, Minignan, and Ouangolodougou.

It is envisaged that the project would provide equipped and contemporary healthcare locations that will serve over a million local inhabitants.

The funding arrangement makes use of both buyer credit and direct loans to the government of Côte d’Ivoire.

The development of the project has already commenced, with completion expected for 2024.

GKB Ventures, a boutique consultancy firm designated consultants to the Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, led a tender process for the project’s funding, together with an international loan syndicate.

MUFG Bank was named preferred lender and mandated lead arranger for the project’s finance after the bidding procedure ended.

The borrower’s legal adviser on the project was KSK Société d’Avocats, a law company in Abidjan, with Ashurst acting as legal advice to the lenders.

This project is a high priority for the government of Côte d’Ivoire, and procuring a commercial credit prior to the facility granted by UKEF “allowed the project to move quickly,” UKEF noted in a news statement on 5 August.

UKEF has allocated GBP 2 billion to new business support in Côte d’Ivoire.

HM Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade-Smith said in a statement, “This record-breaking UKEF facility in West Africa underlines the UK government’s strong commitment to promoting sustainable economic growth throughout the African continent.”

Wade-Smith also stated that the loan “further illustrates the positive impact that UK businesses are having in Africa, working in collaboration with governments and the private sector to foster growth, investment, and job creation.” It also highlights the tremendous range of opportunities we see for UK firms wanting to grow and expand into new African markets.”

HM Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, HE Catherine Brooker, added that the project is critical for modernizing the country’s healthcare facilities, saying, “Thanks to the UK government’s support, through UKEF, UK companies are ideally placed to support infrastructure development in West Africa and seize the huge export potential that brings.”

The United States Government Donates Life-Saving HIV Medicine

The distribution of life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment drugs provided by Americans began. These antiretrovirals will be distributed to 2,144 public health facilities across Kenya’s 47 counties. Following agreements between the US and Kenyan administrations, the present deliveries are doable. Antiretrovirals and other medical supplies are being imported, warehoused, and delivered in a timely manner by the two governments.

“The United States has fought HIV/AIDS with Kenyans for decades, and we are pleased of the results,” said Eric Watnik, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., of the US Embassy in Nairobi. “Medicines, equipment, and expertise donated by Americans have improved the lives of a generation of Kenyans and helped to manage the disease. We will continue to collaborate with the Kenyan government to achieve our shared objective of eliminating HIV/AIDS in Kenya.”

The grant will be distributed by the US government’s development agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Health. Approximately 300,000 packs of 90-day doses of Tenofovir/Lamivudine/Dolutegravir and 4,400 packs of 30-day supplies of Atazanavir/Ritonavir are included in the current donation.

The two governments are motivated to seek a long-term solution for continuous supplies of health commodities supplied by the United States, including building processes that will improve accountability. The US and Kenya will work together to improve and strengthen Kenya’s public health supply chain, as well as to adopt comprehensive internal and external controls, to ensure that all Kenyans continue to get life-saving pharmaceuticals in a reliable and transparent manner.

In the meantime, on behalf of USAID and the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, the Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS), a Christian not-for-profit organisation registered as a trust of the ecumenical partnership of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Christian Health Association of Kenya, will facilitate distribution.

The United States is Kenya’s top donor for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and it is dedicated to the health and safety of Kenya’s 1.2 million antiretroviral users.

African SMEs in the health sector to benefit from the Digital Finance Fund.

Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit fund primarily committed to funding small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) healthcare enterprises in Africa, has received a catalytic investment of Sh900 million from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Fund, according to Maarten Brouwer, the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya, is focused at establishing new digital finance solutions to promote investments in African health infrastructure and improve access to high-quality basic healthcare.

Because health and development are inextricably linked, achieving universal health coverage will ensure that everyone, regardless of social position, has access to high-quality healthcare,” stated Amb. Brouwer.

Amb. Brouwer announced that the funds will save small and medium-sized healthcare companies that have poor infrastructure, limited means to invest in quality improvement, and difficulty accessing capital from commercial banks during the celebrations of the first loan disbursement within Medical Credit Fund 2.

Arjan Poels, Managing Director of Medical Credit Fund, noted that the infrastructure and equipment utilised in SMEs hospitals have an impact on the quality of treatment they provide to patients who visit their facilities.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of well-functioning health systems. MCF2 aims to promote equitable and high-quality healthcare by assisting clinics in improving the services they provide, according to Poels.

Poels went on to say that the MCF was founded on Kenya’s advanced mobile money ecosystem, which led the launch of its cash advance, a credit product aimed at improving access to capital for the health sector.

In his remarks, PharmAccess Foundation Country Director Kenya, Isaiah Okoth, noted that achieving Universal Health Coverage necessitates striking a balance between allowing residents to receive care without financial hardship and the availability of high-quality healthcare facilities.

MCF, according to Okoth, is using the potential of the mobile phone to increase access to quality healthcare in Africa by using digital loans. “During the epidemic, digital lending has proven critical, with Covid-19 increasing mobile money use and further lowering banks’ desire for SME credit,” Okoth added.

Most health institutions were on the verge of closure because they couldn’t get bank loans to bridge cash flow gaps or buy personal protective equipment (PPEs), according to the Foundation’s Country Director, who said that Cash Advance proved to be the solution due to its convenience and flexibility.

MCF was able to release Sh2.4 billion in 2020, and has been averaging Sh433 million per month in disbursements since the start of 2021, according to him.

Millicent Olulo Orera, MCF Regional Director Advocacy and Partnerships, stated, “We believe that better functioning healthcare markets are critical in attaining Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those connected to Universal Health Coverage.”

According to Olulo, the fund would begin operations in its present nations of operation, which include Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, before expanding to additional countries.

Sori Lakeside Hospital in Homabay County was the first recipient of MCF 2, receiving Sh4.25 million from the Medical Credit Fund.

Helium Health to launch its full suite of products and services in Kenya.

The Nigerian startup Helium Health has announced the launch of its complete suite of products and services in Kenya and is now providing electronical medical records (EMR) and hospital management information (HMI).

Helium Health is the most popular solution for hospitals and clinics in West Africa, with over 300 health service providers and more than 5000 health care professionals in Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana. The product Electronic Medical Records/Hospital Management Information System (EMR/HMIS).

In May 2020 the company concluded a 10 million US dollars Series A financing round to extend its African footprint. In partnership with three local suppliers – including Philips Healthcare technology – it is now moving to East Africa with a Kenyan launch.

“We plan to expand to Kenya’s flourishing health-technology sector since last year and are therefore very excited that we will be working together with three new local partners in 2021 to help to improve efficiencies and better serve patients. It is our view that the opportunities to make use of cutting-edge technology to help enhance the collection and administration of health data throughout Africa is excellent,” said Tito Ovia, co-founder of Helium Health. We also want to be partnering with equivalent health care provider and facilities in Kenya.

Jean Kyula, Country Manager for Helium Health Kenya and a former NHS doctor in the United Kingdom, added, “We are confident that we can play a significant role in supporting both Kenya’s public and private healthcare sectors.” We are excited to announce that we are now open for business, with three new partners in Nairobi and plans to expand into Uganda and Liberia. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role of technology in healthcare, as well as the need to continue building better systems, developing more remote access solutions, and improving efficiencies in our healthcare sector, so we look forward to working with more partners, doctors, hospitals, and clinics in the future.

Africa to receive a new digital healthcare platform with an investment of $3 million

Easy access to primary healthcare is critical for early detection and treatment of health issues. Primary care is best given by groups of primary care professionals who work together to coordinate care. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, universal access to such care is limited.

Digital healthcare platforms have a significant chance to expand access to team-based care across the area. They have the potential to lower the cost of high-quality care while improving health outcomes, reach patients in rural locations, and relieve strain on established medical support systems.

Such forums have grown in popularity around the world as a result of the pandemic, and Africa is no exception. With its telehealth service, a new platform based in South Africa hopes to provide Africans with affordable, high-quality care. To that end, it has closed a $3 million pre-Series A investment.

Webrock Ventures is a venture-building investment firm situated in Stockholm, Sweden. So, in essence, the firm joins with Swedish IT companies and creates portfolio businesses by combining its cash with the companies’ business concepts. It does so while still owning a significant portion of the company.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, global telehealth investments have soared, increasing by more than 50%. With several of the world’s fastest-growing economies, investors and businesses are increasingly looking to Africa as a significant growth market for services in high demand.

A entirely new opportunity is created by forging a new alliance. Healthforce can use its current position to bring’s core technology to a new direct-to-patient market. Webrock, a willing investment machine set up to scale the platform, is in the backdrop.

The new company will use a freemium model to target the uninsured B2C market. On-demand and planned consultations with nurses, general practitioners, and mental health specialists are available through the site. It will be integrated with Healthforce’s broader primary care offering and will provide chronic care management.

The healthcare market in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be worth $90 billion. However, health insurance coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa is in the single digits (percentage-wise), with the exception of South Africa, which has 16 percent coverage. According to Kornik, the three parties aim to handle a big amount of the problem and are in agreement on how Africa’s healthcare system should look if it succeeds.

“This is a pure-play healthcare provider company. We will deliver high-quality healthcare at low cost to 75 million people through telemedicine through this pan-African enterprise, literally placing healthcare in the palm of their hands,” stated Saul Kornik, co-founder and CEO of Healthforce.

Tanzania makes Covid-19 statistics public for the first time in over a year

Tanzania has recorded 100 new Covid-19 cases since the third wave of the viral disease broke out across the globe, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Monday.
In her maiden press conference at State House in Dar es Salaam on Monday, President Hassan said 70 of the 100 patients were critical.
“About 70 are on ventilators,” she said.
It was the first time Tanzania was making made Covid-19 statistics public since May 2020.

The fifth phase administration of former President John Magufuli at some point denied the existence of Covid-19 in the country.
President Hassan has adopted a completely different approach to dealing with the pandemic since ascending to power on March 19, following following Magufuli’s death on March 17.
She said on Monday that as soon as she was sworn-in as President, she embarked on ways to adopt globally-accepted measures of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, including vaccination.

Vaccination budget

Meanwhile, the Tanzanian government says it will spend at least $470 million to purchase Covid-19 vaccines and bail out sectors that were severely hit by the pandemic.
President Suluhu made the announcement during her meeting with editors and journalists at the State House in Dar es Salaam.

The President further said Tanzania has registered for the Covax package and will therefore be ready to administer the vaccine doses in the near future.
“We have $470 million to order vaccines and equipment to use in the fight against coronavirus,” she said.
She added that vaccination will be voluntary to give citizens the opportunity to choose what is best for them.
The President did not name the vaccine the country will procure given many nations have developed jabs for the killer virus which brought global economies to their knees.
Recently, the government applied for a $571 million (about Sh1.3 trillion) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it tackle economic challenges resulting from the pandemic.
Tabling the government’s Sh36.3 trillion 2021/22 budget in Parliament on June 10, the government said this was a low-interest loan aimed at tackling the social and economic impacts of Covid-19.
IMF officials in Dar es Salaam and Washington were quoted by Reuters as confirming talks on the matter, noting, however, that Tanzania would have to provide information on Covid-19.

Nigeria’s Helium Health launches health tech in Kenya

Helium Health, West Africa’s leading provider of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Hospital Management Information (HMI) Systems, has announced the debut of its entire array of products and services in Kenya for the first time.

Helium Health, in collaboration with three local providers, Philips Healthcare Technologies, Carepay, and Savannah Informatics, will integrate new services, including an EMR, to serve the whole East African market.

“We’ve been preparing to enter Kenya’s burgeoning health tech industry since last year, so we’re really thrilled to be getting started in 2021, already collaborating with three new local partners to assist increase efficiency and deliver better patient care. We feel there is a significant opportunity to use cutting-edge technology to enhance the way healthcare data is collected and managed across Africa, therefore collaborating with like-minded healthcare providers and institutions in Kenya is a good fit for us,” said Tito Ovia, co-founder of Helium Health.

“We are convinced that we can play a big role in aiding both Kenya’s public and commercial healthcare sectors,” said Jean Kyula, Country Manager for Helium Health Kenya and formerly a National Health Service (NHS) doctor in the UK. “We’re ecstatic to announce that we’ve opened for business in Nairobi, where we’re already cooperating with three new partners and expanding into Uganda and Liberia. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role of technology in healthcare, as well as the need to continue developing better systems, more remote access solutions, and improving efficiencies in our healthcare sector, so we look forward to working with more partners, doctors, hospitals, and clinics as we move forward,” she added.

Helium Health successfully concluded a US$10 million Series A investment round in May 2020 (the highest fundraise of any SaaS healthcare company in Africa) to scale and grow the business in both existing and new countries, increasing its reach across East, North, and Francophone West Africa. Helium Health has previously worked with clinics in Uganda and Liberia, enrolling 90-plus users in early 2021, and is now expanding its services to Nairobi.

Helium Health provides a comprehensive array of solutions that span the whole healthcare value chain, from electronic medical records (EMR) and hospital management information (HMI) systems to credit and telemedicine. Helium Health’s technology is currently used by over 300 healthcare providers and 5,000 health professionals in Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana, allowing healthcare facilities to easily accept payments and issue invoices, access quick funding, and hold televisits with their patients, making it easier for patients to get diagnosed from the comfort of their own homes.

Helium Health was awarded the IFC IT Emerge award in 2020, which connects creative health tech entrepreneurs with premier healthcare providers in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda to launch pilot initiatives and form long-term relationships. Helium Health’s technology will be tested in the East African market.