Zim can become Africa’s medicine hub — UN
Blessings Chidakwa-Herald Reporter
WITHOUT the heavy burden of illegal economic sanctions, Zimbabwe can become a medicine hub for Africa as it has a vibrant industrial base and requisite infrastructure, a senior United Nations official has said.
The UN official, who is in the country for the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), noted that although the country remains under illegal economic sanctions, it has been able to make tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, consequently achieving world-set goals way ahead of schedule.
Speaking after paying a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at State House in Harare yesterday, UNAIDS Executive Director, Ms Winnie Byanyima, said the country was strategically positioned to be Africa’s medical industrial base.
“We (her and President Mnangagwa) spoke about the industrialisation and local production of medicines. Zimbabwe has a good industrial base to start manufacturing all the medicines we need on this continent,” she said.
In 2020, when the world was under the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, African countries came second in accessing the essential vaccines and Ms Byanyima said that should not happen in the future, especially if countries like Zimbabwe are equipped to be major players in the production of medicines.
“When the next pandemic comes we do not want to be treated like we were treated during the Covid-19 era where the supply was small and Africa was put at the back of the queue. Even with our money we had no vaccines to buy, so we spoke about local production.”
Ms Byanyima added that in her meeting with President Mnangagwa, they also discussed Zimbabwe’s economy which has been under the cosh of illegal and unilateral Western-imposed sanctions.
“I think these sanctions should be removed so that Zimbabwe can access and borrow money to fight other diseases, to put in education and infrastructure. Zimbabwe’s access to external financing and credit markets is limited because of those sanctions so we discussed and I said I will also be speaking wherever I am of the wisdom of allowing Zimbabwe to manage its development without those sanctions,” she said.
Ms Byanyima also saluted President Mnangagwa for hosting the 22nd ICASA conference which started on Monday and ends on Saturday.
“Zimbabwe is one of the countries that are moving fast to reduce new infections and deaths and will achieve the midterm targets of 2025.
“Zimbabwe has achieved them three years before schedule so it is one of the most successful countries in fighting AIDS and that is because of a leadership that is pushing for the right policies,” she said.
This year’s ICASA, which has drawn more than 8 000 delegates from across the world, is being held under the theme, “AIDS Is Not Over, Address Inequalities, Accelerate Inclusion, and Innovation”.