BY MOSES MAGADZA
LEGISLATORS from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region last week called for concerted efforts to enhance the region’s capacity to produce COVID-19 medicines so that citizens benefit from their plant resources with medicinal properties.
This was said during a joint session of Sadc Parliamentary Forum (PF) standing committees and the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus.
They urged Sadc member States to take advantage of flexibility afforded by trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights to respond to various communicable and non-communicable diseases and public health concerns.
South African lawmaker Darren Bergman, who spoke on behalf of the chairperson of the Sadc PF standing committee on democratisation, governance and human rights said the outbreaks of COVID-19 and before it, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases remained a huge challenge to providing equitable access to health.
Aids Rights Alliance for Southern Africa programmes lead director Nyasha Chingore and Southern Africa Programme on Access to Medicine and Diagnostics executive director Yunus Mohammed said the main challenge in relation to intellectual property in sub-Saharan Africa was access to medicines due to structural and technical factors.
In their joint presentation, they recommended that generic manufacturers in least developed countries must team up with experienced manufacturers for technology transfer to produce pharmaceuticals that meet World Health Organisation pre-qualification standards.
The legislators also said the vaccine gaps in the Sadc region show “the importance of epidemic preparedness and the need to adopt progressive intellectual property policies”.
Sadc MPs’ calls for action came amid growing concern that there is lack of implementation of Intellectual Property Acts promulgated between 2012 and 2020 by member States.
Chingore said only four out of 16 Sadc member States, namely Botswana, Mozambique, Seychelles and Namibia enacted new intellectual property or patent legislation.
He said there had been reports of COVID-19 procurement corruption, lack of vaccine transparency and tough conditions of bi-lateral agreements with their suppliers.
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