African Union (AU) member states and countries in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) are the direct beneficiaries of a new collaboration by Novartis and the AU to facilitate the supply of essential medicines from the Novartis Pandemic Response Portfolio.

The collaboration which will be carried out via the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) portal – the online marketplace that enables the supply of COVID-19-related critical medical equipment in Africa – aims to help alleviate supply and logistical constraints by ensuring efficient and rapid access to the Pandemic Portfolio medicines to African and Caricom governments.

Media releases announcing the deal say all 55 AU member ztates are eligible for the Pandemic Portfolio, while 15 of Caricom’s 20 member countries are also eligible.

According to Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan, the collaboration with AMSP is a continuation of efforts at Novartis to combat COVID-19 across the world.

“Together, we are aiming to accelerate and expand access to affordable essential medicines in Africa to meet the very urgent patient needs across the continent as it continues battling this pandemic”, he is quoted as saying.

African Union Special Envoy, Strive Masiyiwa who described Novartis as a strategic partner for AMSP to unlock access to the latest and best-performing medicines for Africans in an affordable way, said “Following the successful listing of test kits, personal protective equipment, and clinical management devices, the African Union Chairperson has expanded our mandate to include groundbreaking medicines to treat COVID-19 patients in Africa.”

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its spread worldwide, there was a shortage of diagnostics, medical supplies and essential medical equipment such as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, face masks, ventilators, and many others.

“Many African governments had severe challenges with the procurement of essential supplies to support their response activities and face stiff competition with the more industrialized countries for the limited available supplies.

“As a continental body, we are working with several partners to ensure smooth and predictable access to essential medical supplies,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Centers for Disease Control (Africa CDC), who adds that “We found that during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, many people died because of Ebola but not due to Ebola.

“This is because they did not have access to essential medicines needed for treatment. With AMSP, countries don’t have to search the market for supplies. The prices are negotiated and fixed to unlock the supply space.”

AMSP was developed to ease the difficulties and open up the medical supplies market to Africa, and as part of the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) of Africa CDC.

It integrates African and globally vetted medical suppliers to ensure cost-effectiveness and transparency in the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 related supplies.

It was developed under the leadership of the AU Special Envoy, Strive Masiyiwa and powered by Janngo, on behalf of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

The platform was also developed in partnership with African Export- Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).N