© GIZ/Nadia Said

17.02.2022

South Africa: vaccines for the entire continent

The African Union has learned lessons from the pandemic and is preparing for the future with its own vaccines. South Africa is now setting the course for research and production.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, African countries had a particularly long wait for vaccines, not least because of their production location. After all, only around one per cent of the vaccines used in Africa are produced on the continent itself. At the end of 2021, the African Union (AU) therefore set out a goal to produce 60 per cent of Africa’s vaccine requirements on the continent itself by 2040.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has teamed up with a host of actors in South Africa at different levels. The project was commissioned by the German Development Ministry (BMZ) and is part of a regional initiative of the European Union (Team Europe) to strengthen vaccine production capacities and other health products in Africa. The Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are also supporting local vaccine production. Since the beginning of the year, the partners have been working to develop expertise so that South Africa can develop and produce its own vaccine.

GIZ is collaborating with local actors from business, science and ministries to establish South Africa as a centre of vaccine production for the entire continent. GIZ can draw on years of experience in the South African health sector – in addition to supporting the fight against HIV, GIZ has also promoted vaccine production in South Africa since 2008, placing experts with South African vaccine manufacturer Biovac.

Fast production, development within Africa

The new project looks beyond the current pandemic, as Project Manager Claudia Aguirre reports: 'In addition to training in vaccine development and production, we also want to support companies and universities so that new vaccines can be developed here in the future. So there is also great potential here for the South African economy. We are also cooperating in the area of regulation so that these new vaccines can be approved as quickly as possible.'

Short-term measures in the fight against COVID-19 are also part of the project. At present, only about half of the adult population is vaccinated. The South African National Department of Health wants to achieve a vaccination rate of 70 per cent among adults. Together with the University of Pretoria, GIZ is utilising mobile teams in the province of Gauteng. In particular, the teams are reaching people who are not registered in the health system and who live in informal settlements or on the streets.