BioNTech’s first messenger RNA vaccine production center in Africa, the “BioNtainer”, has just been inaugurated in Kigali. The production unit, which will be capable of manufacturing any type of messenger RNA vaccine, should help reduce Africa’s dependence on imported vaccines.
Worth $150 million, this project aims to reduce Africa’s dependence on imported vaccines as during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ultimately, Rwanda will distribute vaccines to the 55 members of the African Union.
Construction of this factory made from recycled shipping containers will span 35,000 square meters and will be completed in 2024. Production should begin the following year according to the laboratory. President Paul Kagame welcomed this project which responds to an urgent need on the continent.
BioNTech plans to employ around 100 local employees when the factory is fully operational and train them to manufacture a host of new vaccines using mRNA technology. “This ceremony is a reaffirmation of our commitment to the rest of the world that the construction of an end-to-end vaccine manufacturing site, involving Rwanda, Senegal and Ghana, is truly underway” wrote Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, who was also present at the event.
In 2021, Rwanda was chosen along with Senegal and South Africa to host BioNTech’s first vaccine production plants in Africa. Born from the continent’s need to reduce its heavy dependence on imports, this project appeared at a time when African countries were falling far behind in vaccinating their populations against Covid-19.
These projects are also in line with the ambition of the African Union (AU) to increase the rate of locally produced vaccines from 1% currently to 60% by 2040. An objective that the continental organization hopes to achieve thanks to the support of States, but also with the support of initiatives led by the private sector, like that of BioNTech and its competitor Moderna which announced last March an investment of 500 million dollars in the construction of a factory of messenger RNA vaccines in Kenya.