THE inclusion of the healthcare sector in a revamped African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) could help this sector boost its value added exports, Stavros Nicolaou, a group senior executive of Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, said at the weekend.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week at the Agoa forum said that boosting value added exports was a key component of any expansion of Agoa, and that call has been echoed by Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel.
“This is a call that will not only benefit Aspen, as we are already the largest African exporter of healthcare products to America, but other African healthcare product manufacturers as well,” Nicolaou said in an interview.
The theme of this year’s forum is “Partnering to Build a Resilient, Sustainable, and Inclusive Agoa to Support Economic Development, Industrialization and Quality Job Creation”.
South Africa utilises less than 300 of more than 6000 available product lines, while the digitisation of services allows South African service providers to tap the US market.
“At a time of increasing geopolitical conflict it is important to build bridges rather than destroy them and Agoa is an effective tool to foster economic co-operation,” Nicolaou said.
He noted that Africa had been the hardest hit continent during the Covid-19 pandemic and the International Monetary Fund expected it to have the slowest recovery.
“My interaction with my American counterparts signal a strong backing for the extension and expansion and I would expect a vote in Congress during the current administration, but it is premature to make a call as to what exactly will be contained within an extension,” Nicolaou said.
He highlighted that Africa was a net importer of healthcare products even though it has the highest disease burden. This meant that its destiny was in the hands of others, which is why during the Covid-19 pandemic Africa tended to be the last in the queue for the vaccine.
He urged American-funded healthcare initiatives such as the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief to procure pharmaceuticals from the African continent, as well as building capacity in manufacturing and technology.