In an effort to boost the local pharmaceutical industry, Government has put import controls on 23 pharmaceutical medicines.The industry, which employs over 1 000 people is made up of about nine companies but operations have been constrained by the current economic conditions and the influx of imported drugs some of which are smuggled into the country.
The sector has also been struggling to breakthrough in regional markets as some of the countries have stringent licensing conditions, which subsequently make the products uncompetitive.
Industry Minister Mike Bimha said the move to put controls would boost local industry as the medicines that were gazetted are available locally.
The controls were gazetted under statutory instrument 18 of 2016. The drugs which are on the list include aspirin and caffeine tablets or capsules, cotrimoxazole suspension, syrup or dry granules, cotrimoxazole tablets, Ibuprofen tablets or capsules, metformin, metronidazole, erythromyein capsules or tables, paracetamol and codeine tablets, paracetamol syrup, amoxicillin capsules, amoxicillin granules, cloxacillin capsules or tabs, maintelyte with dextrose (glucose) intravenous (IV) Infusion fluid.
Minister Bimha, however, said the controls apply only to those products that are brought into the country formally.
“The problem with those who smuggle the products into the country due to the porous border posts remains.
However, Government is currently working on ways to improve border surveillance and the Minister of Home Affairs will soon make an announcement on the measures being taken.”
Last year, Government estimated that the pharmaceuticals industry requires $80 million to fund operations.
Meanwhile, ZimTrade is encouraging local companies in the pharmaceutical sector to broaden their export base by exploring the Zambian market.
The increase of the country’s national healthcare budget by 72 percent from 2012 to 2015 shows that the Zambian Government is prioritising the health sector.
Zambia’s imports of pharmaceuticals have also been on an upward trend since 2010 increasing over 90percent from $115 million in 2010 to $220 million in 2014.
According to Trade Map, the top five sources of medicaments for Zambia in 2014 were South Africa, India, UK, Denmark and USA with Zimbabwe being number 14.
This presents opportunities to Zimbabwean companies in the pharmaceutical sector given both countries are members of the COMESA and have SADC preferential trade schemes.
These trade arrangements offer zero duty on the importation of pharmaceutical products which meet the qualifying rules of origin. Furthermore, local companies should also take advantage of the close proximity to Zambia.
“Potential suppliers need to be aware that the import of pharmaceuticals into Zambia is highly regulated. The Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority(ZAMRA) determines requirements for market entry which include drug registration,” said ZimTrade. – Wires.