U.S. approves grant to expand vaccine manufacturing in Africa

By Nafisa Jiwani

When the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) launched in 2019 as an expanded and modernized development agency, it was with a mission of investing in the world’s most urgent challenges, and a set of new investment tools to support that mission.

This week DFC is applying one of those new investment tools, its technical assistance grants, to expand COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

DFC will provide a $3.3 million technical assistance grant to the Senegalese vaccine manufacturer Fondation Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD) to support development of a vaccine production hub that will serve Senegal and the other countries of West Africa. With the flexibility to produce both COVID-19 and other critical vaccines, the facility will produce urgently needed treatments and help ensure Africa is better prepared for future health crises.

The project — which will also receive grant financing from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the French Development Agency, AFD — addresses one of the greatest challenges of the pandemic, by expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity on the continent that has the lowest vaccination rates in the world.

DFC will partner closely with USAID to leverage their strong bilateral relationships with other donors to support the effective delivery and distribution of the vaccines to their designated recipients in Senegal and other countries of West Africa. DFC’s support for this project also builds on collaborative work with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have a longstanding relationship with IPD.

Even as the United States enjoys widespread access to vaccines and a sharp decline in COVID cases, Africa is bracing for its third wave with cases increasing 200 percent between June and July. Underlying this alarming trend is a dearth of vaccine manufacturing capacity. Africa currently manufactures just one percent of the vaccines it consumes and in most African countries, less than five percent of the population has been vaccinated.

At a time that the world is well into a second year of this historic pandemic, and science has produced several phenomenally effective drugs and vaccines, the U.S. is focused on the supply chain constraints that have blocked most of the developing world from accessing these essential treatments. While the Biden Administration has committed to donating 500 million doses to countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, it is also working to expand production capacity in both large and small countries across multiple regions. Projects DFC has supported to date are projected to facilitate the production of more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Earlier this year, DFC supported projects to expand vaccine production in India and South Africa, and to help mitigate the risk of transporting and distributing vaccines to remote regions where delivery and refrigeration is particularly challenging.

This need for better vaccine supply chains reflects the massive infrastructure gap in the developing world that is the focus of the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative, a strategic partnership of major democracies to help meet the developing world’s infrastructure needs in the 21st Century. Through B3W, the U.S., together with the G7 and other partners will coordinate in mobilizing private-sector capital in sectors including climate, health, digital technology, and gender equity, from Latin America, to Africa and the Indo-Pacific.

This project to support vaccine production in Senegal highlights how multiple countries can collaborate to help close this infrastructure gap. Their support will not only help to help mitigate the pandemic today but help to ensure that the world is ever again so exposed to future crises.

Nafisa Jiwani is the Managing Director for Health Initiatives at U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Investing in development and advancing U.S. foreign policy. Twitter: @DFCgov