Government on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with one of Dubai’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Intrapharm Group, which could see the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based drugs company setting up a production plant and distribution base in Zimbabwe.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, in the company of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, secretary for Industry and Commerce Dr Mavis Gumbo and Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the UAE Lovemore Mazemo, signed the MoU on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe.
Intrapharm Group chairman, Engineer Ahmad Yousef Ibrahim, signed on behalf of the Dubai pharmaceutical products marketing and distribution company. Minister Ncube said the agreement with Intrapharm would bolster Zimbabwe’s position as a regional hub in the supply of pharmaceutical products.
VP Chiwenga, who witnessed the signing ceremony at the plush Burj Armani Hotel, which is housed at the iconic and world’s tallest building- the Burj Khalifa, is in the UAE’s cosmopolitan city of Dubai where he is leading a delegation of five Cabinet Ministers.
These include Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu and Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka.
The VP is in the UAE, chiefly, to attend the Global Business Forum Africa (GBFA), which kicked off yesterday and ends today, running on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai, which is the first world expo to be held in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The expo started on October 1, 2021 and ends in March next year.
“We are pleased to be partnering and cooperating with Intrapharm Group here in the UAE,” Minister Ncube said, adding “the pharmaceutical sector in Zimbabwe needs a boost. “I think the advent of Covid-19 and other challenges have made it clearer to us that we need to boost it,” the Minister said.
The Treasury chief said Zimbabwe’s pharmaceutical situation was the reason the Government launched the pharmaceutical and health sector development strategies, both which seek to address the need to grow this critical sub-sector.
The negative impact of the coronavirus, which caused national governments globally to shutdown economies and restrict movement to contain the disease, on global medical consumables supply chains highlighted the need for Zimbabwe to localise the production of pharmaceuticals.
The new policy strategy, dubbed “Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Strategy In Zimbabwe 2021-2025”, launched by VP Chiwenga, who is also Health and Child Care Minister recently, aims to address some of the challenges besetting the industry, including by doubling production of essential drugs to 60 percent of domestic needs.
Zimbabwe imports nearly 90 percent of its drugs and other pharmaceutical products, in the process expending hundreds of millions of scarce foreign currency.
Minister Ncube said once the agreement with Intrapharm was operationalised, Zimbabwe would be in a position to export a range of excess drugs to regional countries that include Botswana, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, putting Zimbabwe in a strong position in the production and distribution of drugs in the region.
“This will uplift Zimbabwe and its economy as well strengthen the country’s health delivery system,” he said. Minister Ncube said the MoU demonstrated that Zimbabwe’s participation at Expo 2020 Dubai had already scored a major success; only a few days since the global exhibition started.
Minister Ncube said Government would follow up the MoU with further agreements in a number of specific areas, stressing the investment would be substantial, both in terms of the production and distribution of drugs and pharmaceutical products over the next few years.
“In terms of timelines, we are expecting the delegation from the UAE to be in Zimbabwe in the next two months to continue to investigate the areas that we want to invest in. I have already been to the UAE twice myself and met them here.
“We have been in so many conversations with them and they will be in Zimbabwe in two months to move us to the next stage,” Minister Ncube said. However, he said the parties to the deal were still to decide on the location for the production of drugs and pharmaceuticals in Zimbabwe.
In terms of distribution, Minister Ncube said Zimbabwe had the state owned drugs maker, National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm), as a foundation, which was one potential partner in that space.
“But in terms of production we need to find the right location to bring this facility to produce medicines,” The Treasury chief noted.
Mr Ibrahim said the agreement was in two parts, production and distribution, and expressed hope that the scope of the MoU would grow guided by the requirements of the planned strategy in partnership with the Government.
“Zimbabwe has a lot of resources; it is good for business people to look at it and we thank His Excellency the Vice President for giving us the opportunity to look at some of these opportunities. So definitely, we will benefit, given the cooperation between the two Governments is very strong.
“With bilateral agreements existing in many areas, we are fulfilling the agreements of our leaders,” the Intrapharm Group chairperson said.