Tanzania seeking investors to boost local drugs sector

Monday May 14 2018

A pharmacist dispenses drugs to a patient.

A pharmacist dispenses drugs to a patient. Tanzania imports most of its medicines and medical equipment. FILE PHOTO | NATION  

By APOLINARI TAIRO
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Tanzania is seeking local and foreign investors to inject capital into its pharmaceutical industries, with the aim of cutting down the cost of importing medicines.

The country imports 96 per cent of medicines and medical equipment used in government and private hospitals. The drugs cost the Medical Stores Department (MSD) an average of Tsh236 billion ($104 million) each year.

Most of them come from India and Kenya, with some imported from Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. MSD then supplies the medicines to hospitals and pharmacies across Tanzania.

But under the new plan, the ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment and Health, Community Development, Gender and Children are looking to bring down this cost by 80 per cent.

Five-year target
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Charles Mwigaje said that his ministry will come up with regulations to attract more investors.

“Our target is to produce 50 per cent of hospital drugs and medical equipment in the next few years. We want to remove all trade barriers and fast-track health industry investment in Tanzania,” he said.

The government hopes to revive some of the moribund plants and set up new ones. It also hopes to cut down from 25 to 15 per cent, the cost of medicines procured locally.

Already, there is an upcoming $24 million pharmaceutical factory near Dar es Salaam called M-Pharmaceuticals, set for completion in the next 18 months.

The plant owned by Tanzania businessman Reginald Mengi and Indian physician Dr Nagesh Bhandari, will produce intravenous fluids, dextrose, ringer lactate, sodium chloride, normal saline, and IV kits for dialysis as well as assorted medicines.

Also, the Aga Khan Health Services last month announced its plan to set up a $20 million plant in the country.