South-South Ideas: How to Harness China-Africa Cooperation in Post-COVID-19 Recovery for the Development of Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry

March 29, 2023

Research paper carried out by the Department of International Development Cooperation of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University (INSE). The research team is composed principal researchers, Dr. Wen Chen and Dr. Jia Yu, and team members, Yi Ru, Dr. Kokou Wotodjio Tozo, and Xinyue Wu.

It has long been the aim and ambition of African countries to become self-sufficient in meeting the continent’s pharmaceutical needs. Prompted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and the continued repercussions, the need to accomplish this mission has been brought to light and has become more important than ever. Given China’s increasing engagement in Africa and the highly complementary economic structures of the two regions, China could potentially play a significant role in helping Africa to build its resilience against health emergencies and meet its own medical demands through the development of local pharmaceutical production.

This potential is further magnified by the momentum of growing Chinese business investments in Africa and the deepening of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013. As of December 2021, 50 countries (out of 144) in Africa had signed BRI cooperation documents with China, the largest number of countries from any continent in the world.

Based on a mix of quantitative and qualitative analyses that involved both primary and secondary data gathered through public sources and field research, this paper: 1) maps out the landscape of pharmaceutical manufacturing in both China and Africa; 2) identifies constraints and challenges faced by Chinese pharmaceutical investors in Africa; and most importantly of all, 3) provides targeted policy recommendations to key stakeholders to unleash the enormous potential of Africa’s nascent pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, promote China-Africa health cooperation and build a role model for broader South-South cooperation.