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Museveni commends local scientists for enhancing Uganda’s manufacturing capacity in health sector

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Simon Kabayo
Simon Kabayo
Reporter whose work is detailed

While commissioning the first-ever diagnostic test kit manufacturing plant in the Great Lakes region, President Museveni commended the local scientists and the manufacturing plant proprietors for enhancing Uganda’s local manufacturing capacity in the health sector.

Located in Ntinda, Nakawa Division, Kampala, the state of the art plant- Microhaem Scientifics (MHS) will support Uganda and the regional health sectors to develop local manufacturing capacity towards improving and sustaining the medical supply chain needs by producing high-quality and affordable malaria and HIV diagnostic testing kits in the country.

“I want to congratulate the Ugandan scientists for really waking up. The human race was not very scientific, it was only in 1865 when a man called Louis Pasteur found out that there are other organs which live around us, and we cannot see them with our naked eyes. This was not long ago when Louis Pasteur was able to see bacteria which cause fermentation in milk or something else. Before, the whole world didn’t know that there were other organisms around us,” he said.

“It is really not good for people who say they are scientists to fail to understand and use this scientific knowledge to solve problems. For instance, how does quinine attack the malaria you are talking about, how does it do it? This is just biochemistry or molecular biology so how would the scientists not know this, and you say you are a scientist? In the army we were able to understand explosions by just using the properties of different compounds,” he added.

President Museveni further encouraged the local scientists to partner with their colleagues around the world so that they can develop the science sector in Uganda more.

“If you wake up it will be easy for you to find partners in the world because those partners are there; the ones who woke up earlier than you. I thank scientists from the US and China for working with you.”

The President noted that the partnerships are possible because Uganda has got a very powerful resource which is the market.

“The partnerships are good. Recently, I visited Nakasero Hospital, and I found Dr. Mbonye there and he told me that they partnered with a Dutch company to expand the hospital. This is possible because you already have a very powerful resource; that is the market. Market is part of the business, somebody who manufactures, if he cannot sell, then that is not business,” he said.

“So, you Africans who are sleeping, you have a resource which you don’t know. You have got 46 million people here; these are all consumers of drugs, and other products and services. Then you have East Africa with more than 300 million people now, you also have the continental market of 1.5 billion people. In the next 30 years, the African population will be 2.5 billion. Until recently, Africa has been under populated; India and China had a bigger population, each, than Africa and yet Africa is 12 times bigger than India in size and four times bigger than China yet China and India had more people than Africa but now the killer diseases which had been killing Africans have been contained and for the first time in history, Africa will have what we call optimal population.”

He also assured the local scientists that the government will continue injecting more funds into their projects to ensure that they are a success.

“There are these funds which we have put in UDB, and we shall always put in more which are meant to support that transformation from a superstition-controlled society to a science-led society. That money is just for the beginning we shall inject more,” he assured.

“If you coordinate and you approach partners, they will work with you because you have one element of business which is market and other factors like cheaper Labour and raw materials. Therefore, I really salute you young people for waking up and getting out of the slavery of dependence because that has been the problem.”

On the issue of off take, the President assured the manufacturing plant that it is not a big issue, explaining that the Ministry of Health had already told them that they shall buy the minimum quantity which they need to enable them to get partners.

“Up to now we have not made an HIV vaccine and why? It is because HIV became mainly an African problem so other people were not bothering so much about it but now our people have spent more time and they are coming up with the vaccine.”

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Robinah Nabbanja thanked President Museveni for his visionary leadership that has seen Uganda’s health sector develop.

“When we met you last year, the proprietors of this facility told you that they were going to produce two manufacturing plants; one for diagnostics and another for vaccines. I’m happy that we are launching the one for diagnostics today. The fourth fully automated diagnostic manufacturing plant, the first of its kind in Uganda and Sub-Saharan Africa. We are lucky that we are reaching this milestone in the course of our Health sector as a country,” she said.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng noted that for years, Uganda has been facing a challenge of unsustainable importation of the required diagnostics and medicines for diseases like Malaria, TB, Sleeping sickness, ebola, among others.  She noted that local manufacturing is the only solution to this challenge.

“Like Your Excellency you always say we must benefit from our diseases. Unfortunately, for a very long time, Uganda has been dependent on the importation of drugs, medical equipment and other supplies from overseas. Your Excellency, it was about just 15 years ago when Quality Chemicals Limited began to manufacture malaria and HIV drugs locally and it is now manufacturing more drugs including for hepatitis B,” she said.

“We are therefore very excited that we are now expanding the local manufacturing capacity to include laboratory reagents and other diagnostic devices. I congratulate Microhaem Group of Companies for leading in the local diagnostic manufacturing space. Your Excellency, this investment is worthwhile because Uganda is at the heart of 8 East African countries including Somalia with a combined population of more than 300 million people. We also have market access to over 1.4 billion people of the African Continent through the African Continental Free Trade Area,” the Minister added.

Dr. Cedric Akwesigye, the Managing Director and proprietor of Microhaem Scientifics informed the President that the huge facility has been equipped with state-of-the-art technology to produce a range of both Molecular and Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kits, HIV Viral load test kits, HIV Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) test kits, and HIV Drug Monitoring kits.

Microhaem Scientifics portfolio also includes HIV RDT kits, HIV Self-Test kits, Malaria RDT kits, and Hepatitis B kits.

“Your Excellency, when we met you in 2021 we promised you to make a manufacturing plant for Uganda to serve this nation. Sir, when I came back to give a progress report in October 2022, I promised you that I was adding vaccines on our agenda. Your Excellency, I’m delighted that today we are launching one of the promises that we made to you,” he said.

“Your Excellency, this manufacturing plant is a fourth generation fully automated manufacturing facility, the first of its kind in Sub Saharan Africa. In Africa we have five companies that have ventured into diagnostics. They are in Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and now Uganda.”

Dr. Akwesigye also assured the President that the plant is ready for orders and to supply the products.

“The manufacturing plant has been constructed in accordance with the World Health Organization’s Standards, ISO 13485 and cGMP, and has been inspected and supported by the Uganda National Drug Authority (NDA).”

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