South Africa’s Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel on Monday welcomed the UN World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) agreement to support the production of Covid-19 vaccines in developing countries.
According to the minister, the accord allowed governments to authorise local manufacturers to produce vaccines, or their ingredients, substances or elements, and utilise processes which were covered by patents without the permission of the patent holders during the pandemic.
“We welcome the agreement as a solid and helpful basis to strengthen our joint efforts to develop a strong African vaccine manufacturing capacity,” Patel said.
He added: “To scale up the production on the continent, further partnerships will be needed, including access to know-how and technologies.”
“The unanimous support for the waiver agreement by all WTO countries should therefore lay the basis for such partnerships and give countries greater flexibilities,” Patel said.
On her part, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza noted that the agreement was a step forward in South Africa’s efforts to stimulate African industrialisation – “with the potential to unlock production beyond fill and finish.”
“The waiver is one element of a wider set of actions to build both innovation and production capability in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent,” Didiza said.
She said South Africa had four vaccine initiatives under way.
“Our focus now is to ensure we address demand by persuading global procurers for vaccines to source from African producers,” the minister said.
South Africa and India were the first to propose the patent rights waivers to the WTO, with the support of other developing countries, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic which has killed over four million people worldwide.