The emergence of COVID-19 placed a burden on the supply of prevention products in Zimbabwe, such as hand sanitiser and surface disinfectants, among others. Like other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zimbabwe depended on the import of COVID-19 prevention products. With the supply chain of these products being strained globally, there was a need for local interventions.

To respond to this urgent need, Ecomark Private Limited, a company based in Zimbabwe, expanded the production and distribution of hand sanitiser and surface disinfectants. The grant from the Support Towards Industrialisation and the Productive Sectors (SIPS) Programme enabled the expansion of production and distribution. 

For a long time, Ecomark (the Shumba Group) was concerned about production inefficiencies in the factory in Bulawayo. Not only was most of the equipment old, but it also required more people to work on the processing and packaging of the products. The production system was quite inefficient before the installation of the equipment funded by SIPS. Before the liquid filling and labelling stations were installed, the 100ml and 500ml packs required 11 people to complete the packaging process, but the new acquisition requires only 4 people to monitor the entire process.” 

 (Prof. Joseph Kamuzhanje, Special Development Projects Executive for the Group)

With limited production capacity, manufacturers of pharmaceutical and medical-related products could not meet the supply needs of products locally, especially to meet the demands of pandemics such as COVID-19.

Like Ecomark`s response to tackling regional challenges, 24 companies from the private sector in 8 SADC Member States have risen to the challenge by expanding their production capacities, trading their products in more countries in the region, and creating employment in the COVID-19 relevant medical and pharmaceutical products. Furthermore, the Antiretroviral (ARV) and leather value chains are supporting companies, National Drug Service Organisations (NDSOs), Medicine Regulatory Units (MRUs), educational institutions, tanneries and farmers in countries such as Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zambia. The SIPS Programme has achieved this through enhanced regional policies, regulatory and business environments, access to finance and market linkages, and support for the private sectors participation in these value chains.

Providing COVID-19 prevention products to Zimbabwean communities with limited access 

Ecomark`s core business was the manufacture of disinfectants such as bactericide powder used in abattoirs and food markets and non-corrosive disinfectants for animal housing, mortuaries, and public toilets. The company had limited capacity to produce the much-needed products to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, like many other countries, Zimbabwe was grappling with. Grants under the SIPS programme came as an opportunity for the company to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the supply of prevention products by expanding its product line, production capacity, and distribution.

The COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise. Whilst most efforts in containing the pandemic were concentrated in the urban areas, the situation was not the same in the rural areas. The coverage in terms of messaging and product availability was very low. Ecomark took a deliberate position to use the SIPS grant to promote COVID-19 awareness in rural areas. The major challenge was to get the messages across. According to the Special Development Projects Executive for the Group, Professor Joseph Kamuzhanje, the company decided to use brand ambassadors to create awareness of the pandemic and ways to reduce its impact. 

Ecomark has been using the concept of brand ambassadors in the urban areas. We thought that we could use the same concept in the targeted rural areas but work closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, which has Village Health Workers. The women were quite well-known in their communities and had been trained in basic health and hygiene, and this would be handy in the project. This model is one of the success stories in the implementation of the project. There have been internal discussions to adopt this model across the group.
(Prof. Joseph Kamuzhanje, Special Development Projects Executive for the Group)

The company improved the in-country supply of COVID-19-relevant medical and pharmaceutical products when the global supply chain was disrupted, with restrictions in the distribution of these products from main producer countries. While reducing dependence on imports of these products, the support from SIPS not only increases Ecomarks pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity but also harmonises procedures and non-trade barriers within the SADC region, enabling the company to leverage the SADC market.

“The Group has always exported some of its products to other SADC member states. Products, such as the grain protectant, are exported to Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa. However, with support from the SIPS Programme, Ecomark increased their productivity and now plans to export products to new markets in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. The Business-to-Business Workshop held in Botswana in November 2023 has also identified and represented potential markets in the region.”(Prof. Joseph Kamuzhanje, Special Development Projects Executive for the Group) 

Moice Mufema, the factory production manager, says “as Production (Packing) Department, we would like to thank the SIPS project for allocating resources to processes that improve productivity and factory efficiencies. A particular mention goes to the recently acquired liquid filling station and labelling station that was purchased through the SIPS grant. This is quite a huge saving in terms of time and manpower and ultimately an improvement on the factory efficiencies.”

The manufacture of hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants increased from 6,500 litres to 7,500 litres per month after receiving a grant from the SIPS programme. Furthermore, 6 additional permanent jobs were created, as well as 35 temporary jobs. In addition, 25 female brand ambassadors were temporary employed to conduct product marketing in rural areas.

Innovative local manufacturing of the first Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for human medicine manufactured in Africa

The SADC region comprises one-third of the global population with HIV and AIDS. HIV and AIDS treatment using antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) is one of the significant interventions to combat the spread and devastating effects of the disease. Since most of the ARVs are imported, the high demand for ARVs costs the SADC Member States a high percentage of their budget on health.

Lack of access to finance, skills, market access, and production capacity, and unfriendly procedures, policies, and business environments, are some of the challenges the pharmaceutical sector faces. These challenges have over the years hindered the expansion of pharmaceutical manufacturing to meet the product demands of the SADC region.

Without local API manufacturers, it will not be possible to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing in the SADC region. Establishing API manufacturing capacity in the region requires investments in technology and skills development and policy changes to ensure market access.
(Dr. Hannes Malan, Managing Director at CPT)

Manufacturing drugs like ARVs locally within the SADC region would lower the cost of ARVs and increase access to these drugs for many citizens who need treatment. 

Based in Pretoria, South Africa, Chemical Process Technologies Pharma is a subsidiary of Chemical Process Technologies (CPT). CPT has been a major manufacturer and supplier of formulated animal health products, exporting to 15 countries across 5 continents. Chemical Process Technologies Pharma was established to manufacture generic active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) production for human medicine. CPT Pharma is the first-ever manufacturer of APIs for human medicines in Africa, thanks to SIPS.

Before CPT Pharma was established, pharmaceutical manufacturers based in Africa imported most of the APIs used to formulate human medicines. This dependence on imports outside Africa often led to import and distribution challenges, especially during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPT Pharma was awarded a license from the Medicine Patent Pool (MPP) for the manufacturing of Molnupiravir, a medication used in the treatment of COVID-19. Through the SIPS Programme, CPT Pharma obtained a grant to transfer the license technology into the company and demonstrate the successful transfer on a pilot scale. This technology transfer would not have been possible without the grant, which provided manpower and raw materials.
(Dr. Hannes Malan, Managing Director at CPT)

The SIPS grant also supported CPT Pharma to commercialise cost-effective and innovative methods to manufacture ARV APIs used in current HIV/AIDS first-line treatment. The production of Antiretroviral (ARV) APIs makes up approximately 70% to 80% of the cost of the ARV finished products. This development is a significant step towards stabilising the ARV value chain and reducing the cost of the drugs in the SADC region.

Having access to cost-competitive ARVs from a local supplier will be advantageous for final product formulators in the SADC region. Their supply chain will be shortened with more flexibility around order quantities, lower cost of quality control and some protection against exchange rate fluctuations. Regional API manufacturing will create direct high-skilled job opportunities that currently do not exist as well as new job opportunities in the supporting industries.
(Dr. Hannes Malan, Managing Director at CPT)

Apart from expanding production, the SIPS supported collaboration between pharmacy training institutions and the private sector to guide and train students in courses for industrial pharmacy. This has given expertise to graduates in the pharmaceutical industry, especially the API manufacturing sector. The programme also supported constructing and equipping laboratories for participating training institutions.

Development of the skills required for API manufacturing is critical to ensure success. With the grants received from the SIPS program, students were trained in chemical process development, analytical chemistry and quality and regulatory requirements for API manufacturing and registration.
(Dr. Hannes Malan, Managing Director at CPT)

Ensuring locally manufactured ARVs meet regulatory compliance for safe and good quality ARVs not only works to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS as envisaged by the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP)2020-2030 but also makes the drugs available in other SADC Member States other than the country where they were manufactured. This improves the ARV supply chain in the SADC region and encourages intra-regional trade, fostering integration.

Manufacturing products of the correct quality is an absolute requirement for market access. Training in GMP standards and WHO-PQ through the SIPS Programme was very important in establishing that standard and developing the skills to implement and maintain the required quality management systems.
(Dr. Hannes Malan, Managing Director at CPT)

Improved medical waste treatment by the first ever privately owned and operated facility in Lilongwe - Empowering women to participate in industrialisation and productive sectors

SADC is committed to attaining gender equality and womens empowerment as a critical goal and strategy in the realisation of the RISDP 2020-2030. It is expected that there should be increased participation of women in regional development and enhanced equal access to opportunities and gender parity. This demands that women participate in industrialisation and productive sectors for regional integration. Moreover, women make up more than half of the population in the SADC region, making their participation imperative.

However, lack of access to finance and limited technical capacity has led to many women being left out of participation.

After identifying the gap in the market in access to medical waste management facilities in Malawi, we decided to embark on this project, leveraging on the support from SADC through GIZ. As a woman-led organisation, it is sometimes difficult to break through male-dominated industries such as these. However, the financial and technical support we received from SADC and GIZ made it possible for this project to succeed. We are very grateful for the support.
(Mercy Chamwalira, CEO and Co-Founder of Mitch Investment)

In an industry dominated by men, a woman-led private company, Mitch Investments of Malawi, broke barriers by establishing the first privately owned and operated medical waste treatment facility in Lilongwe. The facility disposes of medical waste using environmentally friendly, high-temperature pyrolysis technology.

When Mercy Chamwalira, the CEO and Co-Founder of Mitch Investment, came across the SIPS grant announcement, she saw an opportunity to access financial and technical support to set up her long-desired project. The incinerator will help address the current challenges facing both the public and private sectors in disposing of medical waste in Malawi.  It will be able to contribute significantly to reduce the volumes of medical waste that is being produced in Lilongwe and the surrounding areas there is still more to be done regarding what is produced in the country at large,” she narrates.

Mitch Investment is one of the recipients of the grants from SIPS. Before receiving the grant, the company dealt with the distribution and retailing of medical products through its retail and wholesale pharmacies, financial and advisory training and public health consulting.  Mitch established a waste management plant in Lilongwe, Malawi, where most private healthcare facilities are located. The high-capacity incinerator can process 1,500 tonnes of medical waste per year, equivalent to about 60% of the medical waste generated by the private sector in Lilongwe.

"Before this facility was constructed, we used to depend on a medical waste incinerator located in a nearby district, west of Lilongwe. However, because of the long distances involved in transporting the waste, most health facilities stopped disposing of their waste and let it accumulate. I hope this new facility will not be the last. We need similar facilities across the country to ease the burden of medical waste." 
(Dr. Martias Joshua, Director, Quality Management Department, MOH Malawi)

Apart from being woman-led, the company created jobs for 5 women out of the 10 jobswhich were created from the waste management project. The plant operates on cutting-edge high-temperature pyrolysis technology while running on minimal fuel, thereby reducing the cost of operation by 25% compared to the operating costs of other waste processing plants in the country.

This project has raised women’s profile in the medical waste management space, considering that we also employed a female project manager. This goes to show that, when provided the opportunity, women can be equally competent in leading roles as men and can help drive positive change within communities.
(Mercy Chamwalira, CEO and Co-Founder of Mitch Investment)

Advancing Industrial Development and Market Integration

The 16 Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) embarked yet again on a journey towards progress and economic transformation through the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030. This ambitious undertaking holds the promise of bringing tangible improvements to the lives of SADC citizens.

The RISDP represent a resolute commitment to regional development and integration at its core, echoing the collective voice of SADC Member States. Their driving force is the sincere desire to bring about meaningful change, including job creation for all, poverty reduction, and the elimination of social exclusion. Furthermore, the plan embraces innovation and leverages science and technology to enhance productivity and competitiveness while optimising the use of the region's abundant natural resources.

The RISDP 2020-2030 also underscores the urgency of concerted efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. Additionally, it champions gender mainstreaming, recognising the pivotal role of women in driving development.

The SIPS Programme plays a vital role in advancing the Industrial Development and Market Integration pillar of the RISDP 2020-2030, effectively positioning industrialisation at the centre of regional integration.

Within the framework of industrialisation, the RISDP emphasises the importance of regional value chains and recognises the private sector as the driving force behind this transformational process. In the context of the SIPS Programme, specific value chains have been carefully selected, validated, and prioritised by SADC. These value chains include leather in the agro-processing sector, the production of antiretroviral drugs, and the manufacturing of COVID-19-relevant medical and pharmaceutical products. These were chosen for their growth potential and the potential for creating a positive socio-economic impact. 

The primary objectives of the SIPS Programme are twofold. Firstly, it seeks to enhance the policy, regulatory, and operational landscape at both national and regional levels to facilitate the development of the pharmaceutical and agro-processing value chains. Secondly, the program aims to bolster the involvement of the private sector in these critical value chains.

Programme implementation commenced in 2019 and is projected to be completed in 2024. Financial support for the SIPS program is derived from a collaborative effort, with the European Union and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) contributing to its funding. SIPS is implemented by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ).  The former retains overall responsibility for the programme.   

Aligning with the European Union's development framework

With SIPS, the European Union aims at facilitating innovative investments in health-related areas in Southern Africa with the potential to yield the greatest development impact. Areas that require special attention are local manufacturing and access to health products and technologies, but beyond, also are important the prevention of and preparedness against health threats, the provision of healthcare services, the training for the health workforce and the provision of infrastructure and support services. 
SIPS represents an opportunity not only to enhance health outcomes but also for the EU to partner with Africa and support the continent to leapfrog into sustainable innovation while promoting human development, growth and jobs.  
(José Angel Becerra Marta, Deputy Head of Cooperation at the European Union (EU) Delegation to Botswana)

The Support Towards Industrialisation and the Productive Sectors Programme align seamlessly with the European Union's comprehensive development policies. These policies are centred on poverty reduction, sustainable development, and the promotion of economic growth that generates meaningful employment opportunities. The programme's principles resonate with the ideals laid out in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the EU's new European Consensus on Development.

Furthermore, the SIPS Programme is in perfect harmony with various communications and blueprints within the European Union's development framework. These include the communication of 6th October 2008 on Regional Integration for Development in ACP countries, the Agenda for Change, a blueprint for a more impactful EU development policy and the communication advocating for "A stronger role of the Private Sector in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries." These alignments are evident in the SIPS Programme's emphasis on regional integration, the improvement of regional policies and regulatory environments, access to finance, market linkages, and unwavering support for the private sector's active participation in priority value chains.